International hockey tournament a success 

Most teams in event history

The Whistler International Allstar Hockey Tournament wrapped up on Sunday after three weeks of non-stop action at Meadow Park Arena. Some 75 teams took part, from the youngest Peewee Major teams (age 12-13) to Senior Boys (age 16-19). The roster included top teams from California, Colorado, Ontario, Alberta, and from all over B.C., while the audience included scouts from the WHL and college teams.

Organizers Kevin and Jennifer Sopp, who took over the event three years ago, estimate that between players, coaches and their families, the tournament brought between 3,200 and 3,600 people to Whistler.

"We don’t have all our survey results in yet for this year, but last year every team came with about 48 people. This year we talked to one team that had 78 people, so it’s hard to say yet, but I know we had some pretty good crowds," said Kevin Sopp.

In the past two year’s since the Sopps took over, the tournament saw 62 teams and 56 teams respectively. Last winter they did more advertising, and, with word of mouth and returning teams, they set a new record for participation.

Next year also looks good for the tournament with 19 teams already signed up to come back to Whistler.

While the players represent the best of the best in many age groups, often representing entire communities rather than clubs, Whistler players got a chance to get involved. Two local teams entered the tournament, and several local players padded the rosters of visiting teams, said Sopp.

The hockey tournament is 12 years old now, and some past players are beginning to show up on the radar screen. Doug Lynch, an Edmonton Oilers prospect, is a veteran of the tournament, as is Stanislav Chistov of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. One coach told organizers that Burnaby’s Kenndal McArdle, a prospect for the Junior National Team, played in this tournament last year.

"A few kids do come through here and end up making it," said Sopp.

There are no plans to do anything differently next year, but rather to keep the event running smoothly and according to schedule. "That’s what the people want, and that’s what we want to give them," Sopp added. "There’s still some room for improvement. We are still looking for a title sponsor… we’ve been somewhat successful finding short-term partners, but we’re looking for some longer term partnerships that could really benefit the tournament."

If Whistler builds another rink, Sopp wants to add another tournament for triple-A players that would be run separately but during the same time frame. "That kind of high-end tournament is really missing from the equation, and I think it would do well at that time of year," he said.

Complete results from the tournament are available online at www.whistlerallstarhockey.com.

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