The national selection camp for Canada’s junior hockey team in Colwood could create the kind of buzz that extends far beyond the West Shore.
Dave Saunders believes the three games Dec. 12 to 14 to decide who suits up for Canada in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation world junior championship will have a ripple effect that draws more attention to The Q Centre in particular and sports tourism in general.
“Sports tourism is an evolving industry on the West Shore,” said Saunders, whose family is synonymous with supporting amateur sports throughout the region.
“The West Shore has some of the best facilities in the region. Langford has done a great job of supporting that, and the ambience and fan experience at The Q Centre has already drawn accolades. It’s great to see that happening in Colwood, and it helps spread the message far and wide about the great things going on here. The more sports tourism, the better.”
The three games against the U Sports all-star team will increase the passion for hockey that already exists throughout the region, said Saunders, who has coached girls minor hockey in the Juan de Fuca organization for 16 years.
“You can’t measure the impact watching high-calibre hockey will have on the kids and coaches involved in minor hockey,” he noted. “Having the tryout camp here is absolutely fabulous.”
Saunders, who played for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars and with the Cowichan Capitals in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, still laces up the skates in a recreational league on Wednesday nights. “My wife, my daughters and sisters all play…The whole family is pumped for the games at The Q Centre.”
The games will have a measurable impact on local businesses as well, he noted. “Sports tourism creates jobs and brings more people to our community,” he added with an enthusiastic “Go Canada go.”
Arena and events co-ordinator Rob Wilson said everyone is working hard to ensure the upcoming games are a success.
“Having 34 players in camp creates a buzz in the community,” he said.
“It’s exciting for all the businesses to have all the boys come in for dinner or stay in a local accommodation. Everyone gets to feel like part of Team Canada when the players come to your community. All of the staff at West Shore parks and Recreation are very excited and are everyone’s stepping up to prepare for next week.”
The tryouts at The Q Centre, which holds about 2,800 people, will be followed by exhibition games against Switzerland Dec. 19 and Slovakia Dec. 21 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria. Tickets for the Canada U-Sports games are $15 HockeyCanada.ca and The Q Centre and Save-on-Foods arena box offices.