Some of the best bantam hockey Canada has to offer will be on display next month in Kelowna.
Five teams, including the host tier 1 Rockets, will be showcased in the city April 3 to 6 at the 2014 Western Canadian Bantam AAA Hockey Championship.
The Kelowna squad will be joined by four provincial champions from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in a round-robin format.
Games will be played at Rutland Arena, with the gold medal final set for Sunday, April 6.
The host Rockets will tune up for Westerns with a trip to Prince George for next week’s B.C. Hockey midget provincials.
Kelowna coach Tom Watters expects the competition at Westerns to bring out the best in his club.
“We’ve played 59 games so far this year, so we’re game-hardened by now,” said Watters. “Our team has risen to the challenge all year playing top-calibre teams. I’d like to say we’ve won a majority of those, but I can’t. We have been very competitive and that’s what we’re looking for at this tournament is to stay competitive. If we can steal one or two that would be great.”
The tournament will be played three weeks ahead of the Western Hockey League’s annual bantam draft, giving scouts one good, long last look at some of the elite bantam talent from across the region.
KMH executive director Leoni Popoff said the spotlight will shine on some of the country’s top young players for four days.
“These are the best of the best in the west, and this is the highlight of these kid’s careers so far,” Popoff said. “It’s a great honour for us to be hosting this event.
“There will be scouts from all the WHL teams, the families of players from all the provinces will be here, and we’ll also be live-streaming this as well so fans back home will be able to take in the games.”
As for the residual benefits of hosting the Westerns, KMH executive board member Dave Pattison hopes it paves the way for similar events in the future.
“We obviously want to do a great job with this event, and down the road want to attract big event such as this,” said Pattison. “The city is always game for bringing in big competitions and hockey is a big part of this community, so it can go anywhere from here.”
For more information on the Western Canadian Bantam Hockey Championship visit www.kelownaminorhockey.com, or call 250-861-5677.