In a perfect world, Lee Hamilton would watch his host Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Rockets skate around with the championship trophy on the afternoon of Jan. 10 at Rutland Arena.
But with 11 other teams competing—many of the elite variety—the Rockets’ head coach knows his squad will have its work cut out at the 37th edition of the BDO Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament.
Still, Hamilton said their effort and experienced gained will be the true measures of success, rather than where the Rockets ultimately finish.
“At the end of the day we want to make sure they’ve competed at the highest level possible,” said Hamilton, in his first year as head coach of the defending midget tier one provincial champs.
“That they can walk off the ice knowing they’ve done their best. They should be questioning themselves as to what can I do better, how do I take this to the next level. So long as they’ve given the effort, I’m happy where they end up.”
The Okanagan Rockets will be making their fourth appearance at the tournament which kicks off Jan. 6 at Rutland and Memorial Arenas.
After winning in both 2010 and 2014, the B.C. Major Midget League team came up short in its bid to go 3-for-3 last year.
Rockets GM Braeden Pistawka said there’s little secret what result his club is aiming for in 2016.
“Like a lot of teams, we’re coming here to win it,” said Pistawka, who played in the tournament in 2009. “We’re a team that hasn’t had a chance to play with quite a healthy lineup, and we’re starting to get there. The team is starting to come together and we’re coming here to win.”
Still, based on the quality of clubs coming to Kelowna next month, Pistawka is well aware a run to a championship won’t come with its share of challenges.
The Waterloo Wolves, Moose Jaw Generals, plus the academies from Burnaby, Delta, Okanagan (White and Red) and Yale, are all at or near the top of the standings in their respective leagues.
Tournament chairman Greg Stark said based on the quality of the clubs entered and of the event itself, the tournament title is coveted by teams from all across the country.
“Kitchener was disappointed their schedule wouldn’t allow them to be here this year because they really wanted to come back and they wanted to win it,” said Stark. “Teams come here all wanting to win. And the beauty is, they all do have a chance. It maybe takes a hot goaltender and some luck, but every team has a chance. Play your best hockey over five days, and you never know.”
As is the case every year at the tournament, Stark said fans and scouts alike will get a good glimpse of some of the game’s future stars.
“We’re so excited because we feel the tournament gets better every year,” he said. “To see those kids at the ends of their midget careers, for a lot of them their last kick at the can, they really want to show what they can do.
“It provides a great venue right after Christmas for scouts to have a look, 40 or 50 that we know of are going to be here.”
For the first time, the final game will be broadcast nation wide on Shaw TV. Face off for the championship is 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 at Rutland Arena.
Meanwhile, the host committee also announced a five-year sponsorship commitment from BDO.
For more information on the tournament, including game schedules and tickets, visit http://www.kimmt.com
Kelowna Fripp Warehouse Rockets
Okanagan Academy Red
Okanagan Academy White
Yale U18 Lions
Delta U18 Wild
Burnaby Winter Club U18
C’oeur d’Alene Academy
Moose Jaw Generals
Pacific Coast Academy