Hockey tournament travel is rife with highway truck spray, lumpy hotel beds, late nights, early mornings, unhealthy food choices and a whole lot of ‘hurry up and wait’. I won’t say that minor hockey tournament weekends are all about hockey – because that would be a lie – but a good part of the weekend is all about being fed, getting to the game on time, and hopefully remembering all their equipment and clean change of underwear.
Before I hit the road, I hit the internet. When an away tournament pops up on our schedule (and it has done so many, many times over the past sixteen years!), I like to search the area and see what other fun stuff there might be to do in that town. Every once in a while the tournament gods are shining on us and some free time evolves from the schedule allowing our family to do something touristy. And if your definition of ‘touristy’ is as flexible as mine, it might mean letting the players wreak havoc in the hotel pool while the hockey moms take turns supervising, shopping or sleeping, or a jolly good match of NHL 2K17 on XBox while I read a good book!
Our hockey tournaments have taken us to just about every corner of Ontario, some parts of Quebec and a few parts of the United States. When in Toronto, the ubiquitous tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame is a given but of course there are a thousand other amazing tourist sites to explore in Toronto. Since we no longer live in the GTA, and having visited Casa Loma with my daughter and her teammate during a Leaside Girls Hockey Association tournament weekend, I realize I’ve taken many of these sites for granted.
Tournament tourism is catching on. Over the past decade and a half, we’ve managed to see Niagara Falls, ski hills in Vermont, museums galore, diners and BBQ joints made famous by reality TV, toured a university campus, not to mention an NHL game or two. Sadly, sometimes neither the tournament game schedule nor the weather wants to cooperate with my tournament tourism plans. For three years in a row, I’ve been trying to explore the ice trail in Huntsville and have been unable to do so. And a few times the lineups, the cost and the location of touristy sites have not been conducive to our plans either.
Nevertheless, I encourage all hockey parents to “explore the ‘hood’” the next time your hockey takes you away from home: it’s a wonderful thing to offer your children beyond the opportunity to compete in another town, province or country.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve accessed arenamaps.com over the years, I’d have enough money to pay for admission to that new Hockey in Canada – More Than Just a Game exhibit opening March 2017 at the Museum of History in Ottawa. I’ve been thinking that arenamaps.com should offer a “what to do nearby” on each of those arena map locations, what do you think?!
So tell me: where have your hockey tournament travels taken you? And what tournament tourism did you take in? I just may be planning a visit to your town soon!
Three cheers for tournament tourism – may your explorations open many new doors!
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