Curling and minor hockey share the ice

Photo by Mary Hankey In 2007, Kevin Martin’s team were the winners of The National, Grand Slam of Curling in Port Hawkesbury. This time around, Martin was busy doing commentary for Sportsnet.

STRAIT AREA: The last couple of weeks were busy ones at local rinks.

The 37th annual Port Hawkesbury Paper Hockey Tournament saw minor hockey squads visit the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre and Richmond Arena from Saturday, March 11, to last Sunday. Indeed, some of the tournament was held in February, in an effort to allow for more ice time and easier accommodations for visitors.

With that, the Elite 10 Grand Slam of Curling took place from March 16-19.

Having the Civic Centre accommodate world class curlers along with minor hockey players was a huge boon to the community, said Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton.

“I reached out personally to some local businesses asking them to reflect on what they thought of having the Grand Slam of Curling and the minor hockey tournament, and some of them reported record sales,” she said. “Some businesses even compared it to how busy it was when Meghan Trainor performed last September, and we had 11,000 people roaming the streets of Port Hawkesbury.

“There’s a lot of winning to be had when the Grand Slam is here, and the minor hockey tournament, because there’s a lot of new money brought into the community, new faces, and with regards to the Grand Slam, it puts us on the world stage.

“We were the curling capital of Canada for four days, and that’s pretty exciting from my perspective.”

While it’s difficult to be exact about the amount of money brought into the area, the mayor said the estimated revenue was between $750,000 to $1 million. She said she believes that number to be closer to the $1 million mark, factoring in the traffic from the minor hockey tournament in addition to the high profile curling.

John Ouellette, the president of Strait-Richmond Minor Hockey, acknowledged that having the curling event take place during March Break caused a revamp to how the annual tournament runs. It was business as usual at the Richmond Arena, but some elbow room had to be made in Port Hawkesbury.

However, he said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like the mayor, he cited the Trainor concert as a high profile event that necessitated some wiggle room from the local recreation community.

The concert, which was brought to town by Port Hawkesbury winning an Air Miles contest, took place on the local soccer field, and the local soccer squads were willing to accommodate.

“The [minor hockey] board met with the town about a year ago, and it’s fair to say some members still have concerns about the impact of the curling, but at the end of the day, it’s great to be able to have a tournament which is great for kids and have an event which highlights the community on a national stage,” he said. “I don’t think it needs to be an either/or.”

Ouellette added that revamping the minor hockey tournament schedule helped things run smoother, at least in some ways. March Break can be a time of regional and provincial championships, which can conflict with the local tourney.

“Lots changed over 40 years, and this year we tested the waters with some different combinations of things that we’ll build on,” he said.

“It takes a lot of people to run a tournament. If you were to think of all the mothers and fathers doing the hospitality for every team, those doing the clock, those doing 50/50. It takes a huge effort, and breaking it up like we did helps a little too.”

On the ground level of the minor hockey tournament was the board responsible for organizing the event. That group is headed by Trevor Wilkie, chair of the annual minor hockey tournament. He said all teams seemed to have a great time visiting either the Richmond Arena or the Civic Centre.

“The kids enjoyed themselves, which is the main thing,” he said. “We had to spread it out a bit, and we may look at spreading it out in the future to help accommodate teams.

“We had great support from the community.”