Cold snap can't stop city's annual hockey, ringette tournaments

Esso Golden Ring and Esso Minor Hockey Week heat up Calgary sports scene

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Hockey and ringette are in fine form at the peak of Calgary’s winter season.

It’s been a deep freeze outside, but action on the ice has heated things up inside.

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There’s Esso Minor Hockey Week, with the world’s largest such puck tournament wrapping up in the next 48 hours.

And there’s the Esso Golden Ring Tournament, the annual ringette event cranking into play Friday and running through Sunday.

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“We are super excited that, 60 years in, the sport is bigger than ever and the love of the game is being passed down through families over multiple generations,” said Holly Bradley, chair of the 2024 Esso Golden Ring. “We are so thankful for Imperial’s steadfast and generous support of the sport and our tournament and the tireless commitment of our passionate and diligent volunteers. This weekend takes a huge collaboration of volunteers and sponsors to be successful.

“In keeping with a long-standing tradition, we are again honoured to host all age and skill divisions and players across Canada, from B.C. to New Brunswick.”

It’s the 38th edition of the annual event.

A total of 19 divisions — from active start through under-10 to U19 and the National Ringette League — make up this year’s Golden Ring. The feature draw is always the NRL’s Calgary RATH (7-1-1-0), who step on the ice for respective Saturday contests against the BC Thunder (7-1-1-0) at WinSport (9:30 a.m.) and Edmonton WAM! (4-3-0-2) at East Calgary Twin Arenas (5:15 p.m.) and Sunday versus the Manitoba Herd (2-5-2-0) at Henry Viney Arena (10 a.m.).

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All totalled, the 2024 tournament boasts 2,500 athletes on 175 teams, playing a total of 365 games.

And 267 volunteers — plus countless more players and supporters from local teams jumping in to help with game action — are ready to make the tourney run smooth and give off warm fuzzies during this snowy, cold snap.

“The teams coming from Quebec had their flights changed because of the weather, so they were a bit panicked,” said Jocelyn Beswick, communications coordinator for the Esso Golden Ring Tournament. “But they planned to come early, which is smart. They were sharing on social media they were worried they weren’t going to make it. But they made it.

“Usually we have a team event on Thursday night to pick up the coaches’ packages. But we decided to have those packages at each of the arenas. It’s a bit more work for the volunteers but easier for the coaches because of the weather. And lots of the teams are grateful for that.”

Esso Minor Hockey Week
Easton Taylor-Eder, of the U11 Bow Valley Flames HADP Black, celebrates a goal at the Max Bell Centre’s Perry Cavanagh Arena during Esso Minor Hockey Week on Jan. 13, 2023. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

Meanwhile, the 44th annual Esso Minor Hockey Week is in its closing stages, with finals slated for Saturday to crown 58 champions in divisions ranging from U9 to U20 teams.

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And it’s been a ride — quite the cold and frosty one — since last Friday’s opening of the event.

“It has been a challenging week, for sure, with weather wreaking havoc on the facilities,” admitted Hockey Calgary executive director Kevin Kobelka. “Last year, we were fortunate enough to have one of the warmest years ever, and this year, we are faced with probably the coldest EMHW.

“Unfortunately, we have been faced with one arena closing for a couple days, some water main breaks and Zambonis not running,” continued Kobelka. “We have been forced to reschedule 11 games, but we have managed and the event is on track. We are looking forward to an amazing Championship Saturday with warmer weather expected.”

The nine days of the tournament has featured some 12,000 players and 2,300 coaches on 641 participating teams vying for glory in 865 games being played in 41 arenas on 58 sheets of ice.

Of course, countless volunteers there have helped to navigate the situations that came with the week’s worth of freezing conditions and fun involved for all.

“Overall, the enthusiasm has been great,” added Kobelka. “And we would like to thank the numerous volunteers who make this event happen.”

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