Girls Silver Stick takes centre stage

Barry Wright

Teams from Ontario, Michigan and one from Colorado will be in Sarnia this weekend for the 17th annual Lanxess Girls Silver Stick Finals.

Fifty-four teams begin play at the RBC Centre and Clearwater, Sarnia and Point Edward arenas on Friday, Jan. 30 at 10 a.m.

The tournament continues through the championship games on the two ice pads at Clearwater on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

“We’re done long before (the Super Bowl) begins, so we’re not affected by it at all,” said Tournament Director Bryan Chappell, joking that he’s not personally impacted because he’s not a football fan.

The tournament features 40 midget teams and 14 pee wee squads.

“We’re down overall, but we’re up on the midget side,” said Chappell.

The number of teams in the two divisions fluctuates from year to year, he said.

“It’s cyclical. We’ll likely be up in pee wee teams next year.”

As the event nears its 20th anniversary, Chappell says the calibre of hockey has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in the late ‘90s.

“When we started, we played three, 10-minute periods.  That wasn’t very long games,” he said. “Now we play three, 15-minute periods with a flood between the second and third period.  The calibre is much better than it used to be. It’s great hockey.”

Chappell says several girls who have participated at the tournament have gone on to university hockey on both sides of the border, as well as in the national women’s program in Canada.

The local area is represented by teams from Sarnia and Petrolia.

Admission to all games is free.

Tourism Sarnia-Lambton says the tournament has a significant impact on the local economy through hotel bookings, restaurant meals, souvenir sales and the like.

Despite being an integral part of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association for years, Chappell’s dedication to hockey and volunteerism is not exclusive to the girls’ game.

He received a Canadian Tire Hero of Play award last week for his work behind the scenes at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia late last year.

The honour was handed out at the Hockey Canada Century Tour during its recent stop in Sarnia.