By Tina Comeau
When it comes to hosting future World Junior A Challenges, other communities in Canada are sure to hear about how successful the event was when it was held in Yarmouth.
In fact, it’s going to be a hard act to follow.
Hockey Canada and Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) officials have been thoroughly impressed with how the event unfolded in Yarmouth.
“We're just overwhelmed,” said Hockey Canada chairman Mike Bruni, who said he was blown away by what he saw the first time he entered the Mariners Centre and saw the signage, the fans, the volunteers and the passion and energy that was inside the arena.
“I’ve been to this event across the country, it’s been going on for a long time, and Yarmouth has set the bar to a level that is higher than any,” he said, adding Yarmouth has opened up the opportunity for other communities of a similar size to be able to host events like this.
And just as importantly, the success of this event – coupled with Yarmouth’s track record to host other large-scale events, such as Nova Scotia Music Week – positions Yarmouth well to go after other large events in the future.
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“Absolutely,” Bruni said. “When you have such a successful event like this, with the rink full, this holds very well for the future for events. Kudos to everybody. I really hope for the sake of Yarmouth and it’s volunteer base and the people here that you will be able to have future events.”
Equally impressed was CJHL president Kirk Lamb, who was pleased to see how the event was embraced both inside and outside of the arena.
“The community spirit is evident when you walk along Main Street. Then you get in the building here and I see so many red jackets around, the volunteer staff, the smiles, it’s amazing. The feel here is certainly good and it is different feelings that you’ve gotten at past events. It’s just phenomenal.”
The energy inside the Mariners Centre was also good for the players on the ice, said Lamb, who, being at an international hockey event, were participating in the experience of a lifetime.
“When you can play in an atmosphere like this where the crowd is into it, the kids are cheering, the horns are going and you don’t have a quiet building when kids score a goal or there is a big hit . . . I can guarantee you the players are feeding off of that.”
Lamb suspects part of the energy and spirit inside the Mariners Centre can be directly attributed to the strong affinity that Yarmouth hockey fans have for their own junior A hockey team, the Yarmouth Mariners. And the success of the event is a direct reflection of a strong host committee, he said.
“A strong host committee and a strong junior footprint in the community has been critical to this event,” said Lamb, who was asked for his thoughts about Yarmouth’s chances to host other large-scale hockey events.
“It’s an open bidding process every single year and Yarmouth would have to enter that process. But the nice thing now is you’ve got a template for an event and so you would be able to build off of your learnings here and frankly repeat a lot of what they’ve done here and put in a really strong bid.”
“I’ve been to this event across the country, it’s been going on for a long time, and Yarmouth has set the bar to a level that is higher than any." - Mike Bruni, Hockey Canada chairman
Mitch Bonnar, a chair of the event and a member of the host committee, says from the local perspective they’ve been completely satisfied with the event. And he has very high praise for all of the volunteers who have helped to make the event what it is.
“I think we’ve got around 150 volunteers and everyone of them, I can’t say enough about them,” said Bonnar, who adds not only is there an economic spinoff from hosting the event, but it also gives young hockey players something to aspire to.
“There is a lot more to hosting one of these tings than just playing hockey. We’re doing it for the kids, we’re doing it for the people, we’re doing it for the whole community,” he said.
As for Bruni, given what he witnessed in Yarmouth he said it is ironic that Yarmouth was not named Hockeyville earlier this year but there is certainly no question that Yarmouth is a hockey town.
“The event has been over the top,” he said.