ESTEVAN - The 2022 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, is going to be the biggest in history.
Hockey Canada announced Tuesday the national junior A hockey championship, to be held in Estevan from May 20-29, would be a 10-team tournament as opposed to the traditional five. The provincial champions of each of the junior A hockey leagues in Canada will join the host Estevan Bruins for the 10-day showcase.
Previous editions of the tournament have featured four regional champions in addition to the host club.
Cory Prokop, who is a co-chair along with Greg Hoffort, Roy Ludwig, city manager Jeff Ward and Estevan Bruins president Josh Biggs, said this will be brand new for Hockey Canada, and they’re excited to be part of it.
“We have a lot of work to do, still, in the next couple of months, but I think it will be exciting to see that many teams at a tournament of this calibre in Estevan,” Prokop told the Mercury.
Prokop said the host committee will have to work closely with Hockey Canada to ensure the financial aspect of the tournament is still positive for the community and the organizing committee.
“The budget is blown out of the water when you add another five teams from all of the distant reaches of the country,” said Prokop. “That was a big thing is just working through the numbers and making sure that the additional costs to host 10 teams wasn’t going to be a burden that we would have to carry ourselves. And Hockey Canada has assured us that that’s not going to be the case.”
There will be additional demands on the facility from having to play two or three games a day instead of one or two, he said. A professional ice maker will be in town for the week, and there will be HVAC professionals who can work on the ice plant if necessary.
And they will need to adjust dressing room arrangements to accommodate 10 teams. Affinity Place has eight dressing rooms plus the Bruins’ room, so one team will be accommodated in a different fashion.
Prokop said the city has been part of every conversation with Hockey Canada.
“The city is fully aware of what’s going on, and they have considerable say in what and how things are progressing, and justifiably so, with the financial commitment the city has provided the tournament to ensure it’s a success. They are definitely going to be at the table every step along the way.”
Facility staff at Affinity Place will be busy for the 10 days of the tournament, he said, but they have proven they can handle this type of event during the 2016 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup.
“I’m confident that we have a pretty good crew there, and the city’s confident that they do. I think everything’s going to go smoothly.”
The committee is optimistic this announcement will also have a positive impact on ticket sales. “People are approaching the Bruins office and buying tickets for the Centennial Cup. I think when people hear that we’re moving to this format, and we’re going to be exposed to nine additional teams from across the country, I think we’ll see some additional ticket sales here locally.”
It also helps that a team from each of Manitoba and Alberta, and a second team from Saskatchewan, will join the host Bruins.
Those who purchased tickets before the five teams were added will get the extra tickets for no extra cost.
“I don’t believe we’re planning on bumping the ticket prices up with the additional games for anybody that’s buying for the future,” said Prokop.
To be able to see upwards of 25 games in 10 days at a facility like Affinity Place for slightly more than $200 is a pretty attractive deal, Prokop said.
The committee has sold more than 1,000 ticket packages. They hope to reach 1,500-1,700 packages, and then sell the remaining tickets through walk-ups and reserve seating for visiting teams.
“The building will look relatively full. I think we’re expecting that the Bruin games, the four round-robin games, will be sellouts. So to ensure that you get your seat for those games, you’ll probably want to look at buying a tournament ticket package,” said Prokop.
The committee is hoping to work with local schools to have students attend games during the day and fill the stands.
Prokop predicted the increase to 10 teams will come close to doubling the economic spinoff associated with the tournament. There will be twice as many hotel rooms booked, and additional rooms for league commissioners, officials and other support staff.
“Restaurants will be busy all week. We’re hoping that the shopping will be busy downtown and a number of other local merchants will be kept relatively busy,” said Prokop.
If the committee was expecting $2 million or $3 million from the spinoff, that might be up to $4 million or even $5 million.
The committee will be looking for 150-200 volunteers, and will need them more now that teams have been added.
“I think the community can just watch for information regarding volunteers for the tournament. Watch for an information night that we’re planning, and come out and attend that, and learn a little bit more about what opportunities will be available. I’m pretty confident that the city will step up again, and we’ll have those volunteer positions filled in short order.”
The committee is holding off on the purchase of a new overhead score clock, which was to be the legacy project of the tournament. With the uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to wait rather purchase something big.
The committee has met its ticket sale target to proceed with the purchase of the legacy item, but now they will wait and hope to have the clock in place for September.