The countdown is on to one of the oldest minor hockey tournaments in Ontario.
Arenas in and around Sarnia will be busy from morning to night with the annual Sarnia International Silver Stick Atom and Midget Finals taking centre stage Jan. 16-18.
The tournament, featuring teams from across Ontario and the U.S., began shortly after the Toronto Maple Leafs last hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup and has run uninterrupted for 46 seasons.
“We’ll be at all the rinks in Sarnia, including Germain, as well as Point Edward Arena,” said tournament director Mark Colbran. The Moore Sports Complex is not available this year due to scheduling conflicts, and efforts to use the arena on Walpole Island to replace lost ice time were not successful, said Colbran.
“We’ll have fewer midget teams this year because Germain is not big enough for that age class,” he said.
Despite that glitch, there will be no shortage of talent on display, Colbran said.
Long before their success in the Ontario Hockey League and National Hockey League, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings honed their skills as minor hockey players on Silver Stick ice in Sarnia. Colbran has no doubt future stars will be on display next weekend as well.
And while the on-ice product is the focal point of the weekend, Colbran knows that whatever success happens on the ice will be directly related to the tireless work of countless volunteers off the ice.
“We couldn’t run (the tournament) without them,” he said.
Meantime, North American Silver Stick Finals in Mooretown and Port Huron are scheduled to begin this weekend, Jan. 8-11, with the Port Huron event continuing Jan. 22-25.
The Girls Silver Stick Finals in Sarnia run Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.