THUNDER BAY -- Brady Hales says playing in the Robin’s Minor Hockey is a great way for teams to see how they stack up against the rest of the region.
Hales, a defenceman with the Bantam AA Westfort Maroons, said variety is the spice of the sport.
“It’s a big tournament and there are lots of out-of-town teams,” he said Thursday, as he and his teammates were about to kick off their weekend against the Thunder Bay Beavers at Delaney Arena.
“I think we only play one team that’s from in town and the rest are from out of town, like Longlac and some other teams.”
Familiarity often helps develop bad habits and complacency, the teen said. Having some different opponents makes it a little more fun, even if it is only for a couple of days.
“You can’t judge what’s coming for you. You don’t know, so you just have to adjust as you’re playing,” said Brady, who’s played in the tournament off and on for most of his life.
Assistant coach Wayne Fortes has been behind hockey benches for more years than he cares to remember, more than three decades in total.
The Robin’s tournament is always a highlight on the hockey calendar, he said.
“It means a lot to the kids. They enjoy coming out and playing some different competition,” Fortes said. “In our division we see a lot of the same teams all the time. This way they get to see a few different teams from out of town.”
It’s all about becoming the best hockey players they can be, he added.
“When you’re playing against the other kids it raises your game and it’s a lot of fun,” Fortes said, praising tournament organizers for making everything run so smoothly.
“Joe Rizzuto, Kevin Mallon and Al Ukrainec and many others deserve a lot of the credit. They do a lot of the work behind the scenes and as soon as this one is finished they start planning for the next one.”
Ukrainec, the tournament convener, said this year’s edition is as big as he can remember as the event enters its 22nd year.
“This year we have well over 2,200 participants in it, we’re at 148 teams from all over Northwestern Ontario,” he said. “It’s growing bigger and the hockey caliber itself is getting better for the kids.”
The Classic has added several new divisions this year, including Bantam and Midget AA divisions, growing it even more this time around.
“Everyone looks forward to the tournament. Everyone wants to get into the Robin’s,” he said.
The tournament is open to the public and will be played at just about every rink in town this weekend. Tournament passes are $10 at Robin’s outlets, $15 at the door.
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