Ask anyone in the city and the answer will probably be the same.
Peterborough is Hockey Town.
That will most certainly be the case for the week of January 11th to 15th as the city prepares to host one of the longest running hockey tournaments in the country; the Peterborough Liftlock Atoms Hockey tournament.
Now in its 54th year, the event has expanded from its humble beginnings as a one day, eight team affair to the event of mammoth proportions that you see today.
“It’s one of those historical events that everyone wants to be at” states the tournament’s Vice Chair Dan McNamee. “As a local, this is the tournament you want to play in.”
The competition is now a week-long event with this year’s tournament having kicked off with an open skate with the Petes on Monday and skills competition on Tuesday. The skills competition was a new addition for 2011 and is open for any roster player from any of the registered House League Division team.
Usually averaging between 90 and 110 teams, this year’s tournament has attracted 93 teams, with the more local teams beginning competition on Wednesday. Teams from greater distances will begin to arrive on Friday for the heaviest part of the schedule which involves the use of eight local arenas.
McNamee states the reason that teams continually want to participate in this event is the fact that it appeals to every calibre of hockey for this age group.
The event has gotten to such a scale that McNamee is unsure exactly how many people the tournament actually brings into the city, but has been told that there is a considerable financial impact to the Peterborough community.
It’s estimated that upwards of a million dollars is injected into the city’s economy.
The tournament itself is the work of 18 dedicated and knowledgeable board of directors and required 400 volunteers to ensure the smooth operation of all sites. It’s a huge undertaking and takes a full year of planning to bring it all together.
None know that better than the current tournament Chair Steve Casey.
Casey has been at the helm of the Liftlock tournament for 25 years and been involved with the event for 41 years. Over that time he states that despite the fact that the position is a full time job, to him, it’s a labour of love.
“It’s never felt like a job” says Casey.
Knowing what brings back the players and coaches year after year, Casey was asked what has kept him returning to his post for so long.
“My love for hockey, “states Casey. “And the great people I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”
At a press conference earlier this week, the long standing director announced he will be stepping down from his position after the tournament has wrapped up. Vice chair Dan McNamee will take his place and lead the event into its 55th year, but Casey insists he will still be involved in the event in some capacity.
The opening ceremonies for the tournament will be on Friday January 13th before the Chris Fee Cup game between the Peterborough Nationals and Scarborough Young Bruins. The puck drops for that match at 7:30. All other division schedules and results can be found online at http://www.liftlockatomhockey.com