World Champions crowned at the 53rd Quebec International Hockey Tournament
Champions play on Sundays!
Hockey History was made on Sunday, February 19 when the LA Selects Peewee AAA team, fifteen twelve year olds from Southern California, earned the title of World Champions after competing in the 53rd Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament.
One hundred and ten teams representing fourteen different countries convened in Quebec City for this yearly event that boasts attendance by many NHL stars like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux who played there as youngsters. Since 1960, the Quebec tournament is the pinnacle of hockey competition where nearly 200,000 hockey fans attend the twelve day event.
Entered into Elites classification, the LA Selects were one of twenty eight teams competing in the highest competitive division. Matched up against the St. Louis Blues, Bratislava-Slovakia, Detroit Compuware, St. Petersburg-Russia, and Whitby-Ontario, the Selects met up with the #1 Canadian Peewee team, the undefeated North Shore Winter Club Peewees from Vancouver, British Columbia. The Championship game was played at the Pepsi Colisee (home of the former NHL Quebec Nordiques) before a crowd of close to 15,000 fans and the LA Selects prevailed to a 4-2 win.
What makes this a milestone moment for these fourteen boys and one girl is that no team from California has ever won this prestigious title in the Quebec tournament’s 53 year history.
Andrew Cohen, the Executive Director of LA Hockey Club/LA Selects recently answered these questions from LAKings.com:
Q: How excited are the kids about this championship?
A: These kids are walking on air right now. They are so filled with the sense of accomplishment especially knowing that they are the first team out of California to win at the highest competitive level at the Quebec World Championships. From age 10 they have heard about this tournament and have planned for it for so long, to have succeeded in the way they have has made it a true life accomplishment at this young age.
Q: How would you describe your club’s expectations/goals heading into the tourney?
A: Ahhh...expectations. They can motivate you and they can kill you. The Quebec tournament is youth hockey (specifically Peewee AAA) on the big stage. At the club level, a competition venue like this serves as a progress status report for our hockey development against top North American and European programs. The first time I came to this tournament was in 1995 with one of the strongest groups in Southern California. We were in the International B division and were knocked out of the competition in our second elimination game. In 1998, with former Kings forward Gabe Gauthier and Brett Sterling (St. Louis Blues organization), we entered into the International B division and won....a repeat International B division win in 2000. From 2001 until now we have been playing in the highest division. We’ve made the championship game twice but came up short. But this year we finally took the top honors. What is really is important is the hockey development curve over the past 20 years from the mid 90s through 2000s to the early 2010s is always improving showing a constant upward trend in California players.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of a tournament such as this one?
A: The most challenging aspect of this tournament is finding balance in this experience for the players. They are 12 years old. They are beginning to mature as athletes but they are still kids who want to have fun. While we as coaches stress the focus on our hockey mission, we also know the players need to enjoy the cultural experience of spending 12 days in about the most foreign part of the country as Quebec, Canada, can be. Players are billeted away from their parents living in a home with French-Canadian families, enjoying the opportunity to be independent and it’s a little bit of a shock and, at the same time, a delight. A little bit of apron string separation from Mom and Dad, so to speak. Then it’s back to the rink to compete. The Quebec families bond with these kids and make them their own. When the tournament is over there are lots of tears from the Canadian Moms and the players. Family friendships are made. It’s very special.
Q: Is there still a stereotype, so to speak, as it relates to youth hockey participants from California, especially when you go north of the border?
A: I have to admit I have spent years trying to crawl out from under the stigma where our California players have been ridiculed throughout the hockey hotbeds like Detroit and Canada for being surfer boys. Many times in the old days we were hearing the jeers from the stands to go back to the beach. When the first LA Peewee Tier 1 team took the National Championship title in Anchorage in 2000 a new order was being established. Within the next three years there were two more National Championships at Bantam and 16u....then another Bantam National championship. Then being a finalist in Quebec twice until the bar was raised yet again on February 20, 2012, when our LA Selects team won the world title...California Hockey players have become an equal. Come into Quebec, play in the snow, win the biggest youth tournament in the world and then...Surf's up....let's go home and hit the waves. Feeling good about it now. Cali players are getting deserved respect.
Q: What is next for your club?
A: It's back to business as usual. The LA Hockey Club and it's AAA program, the LA Selects, are all about player development. Skills development, character development. We want kids to enjoy the sport no matter what level they play. For the kids who make a bigger demand on themselves having clearly established hockey goals, we continue to help them along their pathway whether it is toward Major Junior, College or being able to make a living as a professional player. It’s a great feeling to see these young men and women accomplish their goals.
The LA Selects Peewee AAA Roster: 3 Jack St. Ivany 25 Jordan Bonner 42 Cooper Haar 4 Jacob McGrew 27 Cayla Barnes 65 Nicholai Gruzdev 9 Vanya Lodnia 29 Brandon McDonald 66 Jesse Lycan 11 Dexter Russo 33 Rhett Bruckner 88 Lukas Uhler 19 Cole Guttman 39 Brannon McManus 98 Brett Rudy 10 Nathan Gallo 13 Daniel Chladek Coaching staff headed up by Shawn Pitcher, Igor Nikulin, Andrew Cohen, Greg Chinarian and Team Manager, Barry McManus.