Take a glance at the list of past participants in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament, and you’ll quickly realize this is much more than a fun weekend away with your hockey buddies. Gretzky. Lemieux. Lindros. Lafleur. There is a reason this event is commonly referred to as the single most important youth hockey tournament in the world.
|Members of the Flyers Quebec Pee Wee team receive their tournament jerseys from Hall of Fame goaltender Bernie Parent. |
2012 marks the 53rd anniversary of the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament, which will feature 2,300 players from 16 countries. Games will be played at Le Colisée Pepsi, home of the Quebec Nordiques until they relocated to Colorado and became the Avalanche in 1995. Crowds in excess of 200,000 attend the pee wee tournament on an annual basis.
The Philadelphia Flyers will be represented in Quebec City by a collection of the most talented 12-year-old hockey players in the Delaware Valley, all of whom were selected at an open tryout. There is no shortage of household names on the Philadelphia roster, including the offspring of several current and former Flyers, such as Briere (Carson), Hatcher (Kelton), LeClair (Jagger), and Primeau (Cayden). There is also the grandson (Peter White) of the most famous Flyer of all, Bob Clarke. Did we mention that former Flyers captain Derian Hatcher is serving as assistant coach?
“I was fortunate, I played in it twice and won the tournament” said Hatcher. “In my opinion, it’s the biggest tournament in all of minor hockey. It was always a great time.”
Even for players who reach hockey’s highest level, participating in this tournament ranks right near the top of their greatest hockey moments. “When Scottie Upshall was playing here, we had to go around the room and say a good memory about playing hockey, and Scottie’s memory was the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament. That tells you something.”
While the action on the ice is sure to be intense, the cultural experience for these players is just as important as the hockey experience. Each player on the Flyers Quebec Pee Wee team will billet with a French-Canadian host family for nine days (February 10-19). Different group excursions are planned throughout the week, including snow tubing, pond hockey, a visit to the Sugar Shack, where the players will roll maple sugar in the snow to make their own maple taffy, and a trip to the world famous Quebec Winter Carnival.
“So many of the memories from the week will come from events outside of just the hockey games we play” said Flyers Quebec Head Coach Pat Ferrill. “The players will live with a local, French-speaking Quebec family for the entire week. The boys billet in pairs and the billet families will spend the entire week taking care of them and introducing them to the Quebec culture.”
After the 10-12 hour bus ride to Quebec, the Philadelphians will meet their billet families on Friday night, February 10, and play weekend exhibition games on Saturday vs. the New Jersey Devils and Sunday vs. the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Saturday’s game will be played on an outdoor rink, while Sunday’s contest will take place inside La Capitale Mall.
The players will also get their first peek inside the big arena on Sunday. “We will take the team to the Colisée on Sunday so that they can get a feel for the arena and witness first-hand what the tournament is all about” said Ferrill.
“The tournament tends to attract anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 fans to the Colisée for many of the games. This will be the first time that any of these players has ever played in front of that many people and it will be important to help them get comfortable there and reduce the nervousness that naturally sets in.”
Added Hatcher “We’ve told them what to expect, and that’s all you can do. The atmosphere could surprise them a little bit, so we’ll see.”
The first tournament game for the Flyers Quebec team is a match-up with the Oakville (Ont.) Rangers on Monday, February 13. Ferrill noted “We don't know too much about Oakville. Right now they are 39-14-4 on the season and ranked 15th in all of Ontario. Obviously, they must be a very good team. We will focus on our team and what we want to accomplish as a group. I think we can play with aggressiveness and take full advantage of our speed.”Check back to philadelphiaflyers.com for updates and a full tournament recap.