Orillia Packet & Times Friday, January 1, 2016 By Dave Dawson, News, 20th Annual Orillia Hawks Tournament, 2015-2016 (Orillia Girls Hockey Association)

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Orillia Packet & Times Friday, January 1, 2016 By Dave Dawson
Submitted By Angela Whitten on Sunday, January 10, 2016
Tournament in Orillia will include 83 girls’ hockey teams

http://www.orilliapacket.com/2016/01/01/next-weekends-tournament-in-orillia-will-include-83-girls-hockey-teams

Peewee_BB_vs_Clearview.jpg

DAVE DAWSON/THE PACKET & TIMES The Orillia peewee squad, shown in action against Clearview, will be one of the local teams competing at the 20th annual Orillia Hawks Tournament next weekend. The milestone event will see 83 teams competing in 13 divisions and will feature a Professional Women’s Hockey League game Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at Rotary Place when the Barrie Sharks clash with the Mississauga Chiefs.

In 1996, when the fledgling Orillia Girls’ Hockey Association (OGHA) hosted its inaugural Orillia Hawks Tournament, the Sunshine City event attracted fewer than two dozen teams. Nobody could have envisioned then how the tournament would grow.

This year’s 20th annual Orillia Hawks Tournament will feature an unprecedented 83 teams playing in 13 divisions at six rinks on seven sheets of ice around the region. Action will begin next Friday and culminate Sunday with championship games in each division.

“This year, for the first time, we’ve had to use the (Guthrie Arena in Oro-Medonte Township),” said tournament director Angela Whitten. “That’s something we’ve never had to do before.”

Tournament headquarters is the twin-pad arena at Rotary Place. Games will also be played at Brian Orser Arena, the Rama MASK, the Coldwater and District Community Centre and the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre.

“We’re really maxed out with the number of teams we can accommodate,” said Whitten, who noted skaters will compete in divisions ranging from novice- to midget-age groupings. “It’s grown into one of the largest tournaments in the province.”

Whitten attributed the growth and popularity of the event to its timing, geography, quality of arenas and amenities and the organizers’ tireless commitment to hosting a quality tournament.

“I think we’ve always put on a great tournament and many teams come back year after year because of that,” she said. “We also pay close attention to suggestions and feedback from teams that come and we also try to do something different and unique every year.”

This year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the tournament, all players, regardless of how their teams fare, will receive a commemorative trophy. In addition, as part of the weekend event, a Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) game will be played. The PWHL was formed in 2004 and now boasts 20 teams in what is the women’s equivalent to men’s junior hockey.

“The Barrie Sharks will play the Mississauga Chiefs at 7 p.m. on (Jan. 9) at Rotary Place,” Whitten said of the showcase game. “That’s one of the highest levels for women’s hockey … It will be a great opportunity to see some really talented players.”

Prior to that game, there will be a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the tournament and the 25th season for the OGHA. As part of the festivities, players will don Hawks jerseys from different eras and be on the ice alongside the Legion Colour Guard for the national anthem. Then, local hockey supporter Jim Wilson will present a cheque to the OGHA with proceeds from the association’s recent Drive for a Cause initiative.

“Sponsors like Jim Wilson and many, many others are critical for this tournament,” Whitten said, noting thanks to sponsors’ contributions, each participant receives a loot bag, a tournament program and coupons to area restaurants and attractions. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to host an event like this.”

Volunteers are also crucial. A dedicated committee of eight people meets regularly beginning in August to prepare for the tournament. On the weekend itself, about 60 to 80 volunteers are needed to ensure the event runs smoothly for the more than 1,200 athletes who will compete in about 150 games over three days.

Whitten expects Orillia teams will be competitive at the event and she encourages hockey fans to come out to local rinks to see how the girls’ game has evolved. There is no admission charge.

“It’s a great opportunity to come out and watch great hockey at all levels,” said Whitten, who noted 40 vendors will be at area rinks selling mostly hockey-related goods. “For those who haven’t seen girls’ hockey in a while, they might be surprised by the skill level.”

The OGHA has had a focus in recent years on skill development. Proceeds from previous tournaments allowed the organization to start a weekly development program for players in addition to a program tailored to goalies.

“The tournament is our biggest fundraiser and it not only helps with skills-development programs like these, but it helps keep our registration rates down,” said Whitten. “So, not only is it great for our girls, for the local economy and for Orillia; it’s a big fundraising help as well.”

For game times and other information, visit the tournament page atorilliagirlshockey.com.

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By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

Friday, January 1, 2016 4:12:57 EST PM

This article has been viewed 632 times.
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