GLENDALE -- In a tournament that features more than 100 teams from around the world, from Russia to Switzerland, Australia to Czech Republic, the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament offers a lot of culture during its 10-day run.
While a team from Arizona has been represented at this prestigious event for the past four seasons, this year, for the first time, the event received a Double Dose of the Desert. The 2001 Jr. Coyotes, coached by Jason Wright, and the 2002 Phoenix Firebirds, coached by Ron Filion, both competed in the tournament to show the hockey world that Arizona is a force to be reckoned with.
The rules for the tournament are a little unorthodox compared to most youth hockey tournaments, as the teams are only guaranteed two games; if you lose the first game, you go to the losers bracket and if you lose again, you are out. If you win your first game, the next time you lose, you are out.
This tournament gains its popularity, not just by the skill of the players, but by the treatment it provides its participants. Teams are given equipment managers who take care of the players’ gear like they would in the NHL while also providing bussing to and from the arena.
"There aren't words to accurately describe the great experience that our Jr. Coyotes had in Quebec," Jr. Coyotes coach Jason Wright said. "The city and the fans embraced us; the tournament was first class.”
The Arizona teams played in separate divisions, therefore weren’t able to play each other on international ice, but they played a melting pot of competition.
Coming away with the only victories for Arizona were the Jr. Coyotes, winning their first two games, against Connecticut Oil Kings (2-1) and Russia Variagi (5-2) before being bumped out by the Hershey Jr. Bears in the quarterfinals. The two victories were the most for an Arizona team in the past four years it has sent a team to this tournament.
“Playing in front of 6,000 fans and beating the Russian team is one of the many highlights,” Coach Wright explained, “But without the help of the Coyotes, this once-in-a-lifetime experience would have never happened."
Despite battling in two close games, the Phoenix Firebirds lost both of their tournament games to Pittsburgh Stealth (4-3 OT) and the Richmond Generals (2-0).
However, the Firebirds weren’t content with traveling that far and not playing more games, so they coordinated to play 11 exhibition games against various AAA teams in the tournament from all over the world.
“Our 02 AAA Firebirds represented the state of Arizona with pride and I am honored to continue to be a part of their experience as their coach,” said Coach Filion. “I am confident that the memory and the experiences of this tournament for the 2002 Firebirds and their families will last a lifetime.”
The Jr. Coyotes also felt they needed some more games and played an additional eight exhibition games, winning two of the contests against Rimouski and Baie-Comeau.
Both teams were housed by billet families who showed them an extremely good time, visiting the Valcartier Village Vancances, the Ice Hotel, and playing in some old-fashioned Pond Hockey.
The Coyotes were proud to donate $10,000 to each team in order for them to achieve the highest level of enjoyment, which appeared to be money well spent.
Congratulations to both teams on their adventure to the Great White North. We can’t wait to see them back there next year!