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Young players showcased at Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills

by Tal Pinchevsky
In a scene ripped from the pages of hockey tradition, 40 children aged 7 to 12 selected from across Canada descended on Ottawa for the weekend of the 2012 Tim Horton's NHL All-Star Game to showcase their on-ice skills at the city's famous Rideau Canal. The event was the finale of the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition, a program aimed at finding the best young hockey players in Canada while strengthening community and familial bonds.

"It's been an overwhelming response. We've had several emails from parents contacting us about how great it is," said Krystie Krasnaj, an event organizer and NHL Account Executive for Partnership Marketing. "It's free to register as part of the Canadian Tire Hockey School. We have NHL alumni at the events, so kids get to see the NHL stars they otherwise wouldn't see. It's been a great experience for us."


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Staged for the first time this past year, the Junior Skills competition saw almost 4,500 kids register in 15 cities across Canada. Over a period of weeks, 30 were selected as the best novice, atom, and pee wee players in their towns and flown to Ottawa with their families to compete in the final. An additional 10 children won wild-card entries for the final, which featured NHL mascots as well as former NHLers Peter Ing, Patrick Lalime, and Brad Marsh and USA Olympian Jessie Vetter.

"What a great concept Canadian Tire came up with. It's involved in many cities and now the kids are here for the championship. It's great for a hockey country," said Marsh, who finished his NHL career in Ottawa. "They're here to win and it's a great event the kids are going to remember the rest of their lives."

The players competed in four events: fastest skater, puck control, passing accuracy and accuracy shooting. After tabulating the scores, Canadian Tire and the NHL named one girl and one boy as a winner in each of the three divisions. The top player in their respective categories earned a crystal Tiffany trophy and was honored on the ice during the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills competition.

While six winners were crowned, nobody appeared disappointed at the inaugural event that saw children make new friends and families enjoy time together in Ottawa. "I think the parents enjoy the alumni as much as the kids do," Krasnaj said. "We have a bunch of parents waiting for autographs. Then they go home and get to connect with their kids through hockey."
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