Our family spent Christmas 2015 in beautiful Banff, Alberta. Banff knows how to do Christmas! For one thing, there’s snow – unlike most of eastern Canada. There was not a hockey stick in sight, just lots of snow and lots of skiing.
It wasn’t that long ago, though, that hockey was a major holiday event in our family not only because we are all avid watchers of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship but because both my boys participated for several consecutive years in the Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament that takes place annually between Christmas and New Years’ in Ottawa. Because the holiday season is not hectic enough for a mom, we really need to add a hockey tournament or two into the mix.
I know many hockey families spend part of the Christmas break at hockey tournaments. But if you’re a minor hockey player in Ontario, chances are you’ve played in the Bell Capital Cup at least one year. The Bell Capital Cup is the largest minor hockey tournament in the world. In fact, one of the years that we played in this tournament, there were well over 600 other minor hockey teams participating. Ottawa is already a hockey mecca but scheduling hundreds of hockey games involves cooperation from almost all the hockey venues in Ottawa. Another unique feature to this tournament is that there are also skills competitions and all-star games that take place during the week, not just the typical round robin and playoff games.
Most of the teams participating in this tournament do come from somewhere in Canada, but there was always a special thrill when my boys played against an international team. One year, my middle guy played against a team from Switzerland and my oldest played against a team from New Mexico. In fact, a minor hockey team from China played an exhibition game against one of our local teams at the arena right down the street from our home! It’s a great reminder to me that our national pasttime of ‘talkin’ hockey’ is shared around the world.
There are many Bell Capital Cup memories and memorabilia swirling around our house (caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and dozens and dozens of team pins), but my personal memories include nervously asking visiting family members if they have any objection to a 4 o’clock dinner to accommodate a 7 o’clock game or cancelling out New Year’s Eve plans altogether because one of the boys may have an early morning playoff game on New Year’s Day!
I recently came across a Ziploc bag of team hockey pins collected by my boys during this tournament and it brought back a lot of memories. I used to complain that this hockey tournament crushed all my Norman Rockwell Christmas plans, but now that my boys no longer participate (it is primarily an atom and peewee level tournament), I do miss it.
So if your holiday memories involve a Bloody Mary or two and a bloody lip or two, I’ll know you too may be participating in the Bell Capital Cup. If it does, you have both my sympathy and my envy.
Three cheers for holiday hockey tournaments – and the happy hockey memories they make!
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