Every Thanksgiving the youth hockey world turns its eye on Columbus for various tournaments, some more well known than others. The Chillers host the largest High School hockey tournament in the country where 50 teams compete and the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association hosts a large tournament with participants ranging in age from 7-13.
However, there is a smaller tournament that has great meaning for those involved – mainly the Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC), Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation and the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department – the Thanksgiving Columbus Coliseum Challenge.
The Thanksgiving Columbus Coliseum Challenge takes place annually at the Columbus Fairgrounds over a two day period. The tournament includes 17 teams, broken up into five age groups, where most teams have the opportunity to play three games during the weekend.
The Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC) hosts the tournament and this year it provided an opportunity for children from metro Columbus to play children from Detroit in a full tournament. This experience brings diversity to these economically underprivileged players by allowing them to travel, meet new players and engage in competition with teams outside their hometown; a rarity for most of these players. Although all teams vie for the win, this tournament is ultimately about sportsmanship, camaraderie, friendship, and opportunity.
This year's challenge, held November 26-27, hosted over 200 players, 40 coaches and 400 spectators. Most teams were able to play three games over the weekend at no cost to the team. Organizations that took place in this year's Coliseum Challenge included the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, Detroit Hockey Association, Capital Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), Newark Ice Hockey Association (NIHA) and Northwest Hockey Club.
A highlight on the weekend was a visit from Columbus City Councilmember Priscilla Tyson who dropped the ceremonial puck on Friday evening, and Director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department (CRPD) Alan McKnight. In addition, speakers from various organizations involved in the tournament spoke, as well as Joel Siegman from the Columbus Blue Jackets Fan Development Department. Siegman works with CIHC extensively throughout the year organizing various activities including the Street Jackets tournament hosted by CRPD, Future Jackets intermission skates and the equipment donations for those metro Columbus children who would like to learn how to play the game.
Local 10TV News and our own Jackets TV video crew were on hand to cover the Thanksgiving tournament. To learn more about the tournament and see some of the action, including comments by the aforementioned people, click here.
The Thanksgiving Columbus Coliseum Challenge gives many children in Columbus a great reason to be thankful over Thanksgiving weekend. The enthusiasm of the players, coaches, spectators and organizations creates a fun-filled tournament for all involved and gives many kids a great hockey experience that they may not have had otherwise. This tournament helps to spread the joys of hockey throughout families in Columbus, and that is something we can all be thankful for each year.
Special thanks to Mike Watson and John Haferman for their cooperation in contributing to this story and the video.