The Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre will be hosting the kind of international hockey tournament it was designed for this weekend.
But there will be so many teams in Brant for the 43rd annual Wayne Gretzky Invitational Minor Hockey Tournament that Lions Park, the Brantford civic centre, Burford Community Centre, South Dumfries Community Centre and Brant Sports Complex will be hopping as well.
The tournament will feature 95 teams playing almost 250 games in 10 divisions on 10 different ice surfaces starting on Thursday and wrapping up on Sunday afternoon. Admission is free to all games.
The Brantford Minor Hockey Association has phased out AAA divisions in the tournament this season, concentrating on A and MD divisions.
“It wasn’t really our decision to eliminate AAA,” organizing chair David Fielding said. “It is just something that happened over time. It was clear we are a popular A and MD tournament, so let’s stick to what we are good at and define ourselves that way.”
Opening ceremonies take place on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Gretzky centre and will feature an international skills competition.
“It will be a competition between the teams from Norway, Finland, the U.S. and the Brantford 99ers,” Fielding said. “We’ve been talking for years about trying something different.
“The design of the new Gretzky centre made the traditional (Olympic-style) parade of players a little more challenging than the civic centre. We wanted to be at the Gretzky centre to show off our new home so it was time for something new.”
Fielding said the tournament couldn’t be such an international success without the support of the Brantford Church Hockey League and the Paris Minor Hockey Association.
One of the two teams travelling from Finland is being billeted by Paris and the team from Norway is being looked after by the BCHL.
The Norway team is sticking around after the tournament to play the Brantford Saints at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto before returning home in the New Year.