The Stanley Cup may belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the local glory is still up for grabs.
The Whistler International Allstar Hockey Tournament returns this weekend, with more than 50 teams slated to hit the ice at the Meadow Park Sports Centre from June 17 to July 10.
"This year it's pretty solid," said tournament organizer Kevin Sopp.
"We've got teams out of California, Colorado, Alberta, Washington state, D.C., so it's kind of got some nice mixes happening."
Sopp has run the tournament for the last 13 years with his wife Jennifer.
"Spring hockey usually starts around the beginning of March, April, and carries through until now, so a lot of teams use this as sort of an end of the year kinda thing," Sopp said, adding that Whistler provides a different experience for hockey families used to playing city tournaments.
"When you go to the city tournaments you're kind of hopping around from rink to rink, spending a lot of time driving, whereas here they come and they stay in a hotel," Sopp said.
"There's activities for the whole family so it's not just hockey — people can shop, people can Ziptrek, they can go up the mountain and hike and all that kinda stuff."
Local hockey coach Dean Cote will be leading a squad of Major Atom players from Whistler, Squamish and beyond.
"Some of them know each other, but there's a bunch of new faces there, and we ask them to stand up and introduce themselves prior to Game 1, tell everyone where they're from (and) who they played with," said Cote.
"That's usually how we get the ball rolling and then see who takes on leadership amongst the group, and the dressing room chemistry evolves from there."
The tournament gives Whistler kids a chance to develop their skills against high-quality opponents without having to drive down the highway, Cote added.
"There's some kids that have got a lot of miles under their belt, and they've been in some intense situations with hockey in general, and there's other kids that have never seen it," he said.
"I know with our group this year there will be some kids that are up-and-comers here locally, but haven't had a chance to play in a more competitive atmosphere, so they'll get a taste of it here in this tournament and we'll see where it goes."
Cote wanted to acknowledge the work the Sopp family puts into organizing the tournament each year.
"They're bringing families from all over North America to come here, not to mountain bike or to ski, but to play hockey and also to experience Whistler," he said. "It's not an easy task, what Kevin and his wife and now his kids do every year to put this tournament on."
This year's major tournament sponsor is Dups Burritos. The action gets underway June 17 — head to www.whistlerallstarhockey.com for more info.
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