A week ago Sunday, Québec City’s International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament wrapped up at the Pepsi Coliseum. This annual event brings thousands of 11 and 12 year old hockey players to the hockey arenas of the Old Capital. Their presence in town marks a tradition that has been warming up Québec winters for 55 years.
For the first tournament back in 1960, 28 teams came to compete. Today, there are 120 teams in all – enough teams to fill 5 brackets – from all over the world. Not all of them will haul in the hardware at the end of the tournament, but everyone leaves having had an experience they will remember the rest of their lives. And for the most promising competitors, there is a future in professional hockey waiting; players no less accomplished than Patrick Roy, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky all spent part of their childhoods skating the February ice of Québec City.
Everyone who is even vaguely interested in hockey follows the progress of the Pee Wee tournament. Whether in the newspaper or on the big outdoor screen at la Place d’Youville, fans cheer on the future stars.
This tournament does not benefit just hockey enthusiasts, however; it is boon for the tourism industry as well. During the 11-day tournament, hockey players and hockey parents are omnipresent in town, taking advantage of the winter wonderland that is Québec City. My recent visit to the city’s ice hotel, for example, was made boisterous by roving bands of pre-adolescents who ran from room to room sporting their team colors.
(Cover Photo Credit: Joe Burbach)