Team Canada logos and merchandise abound everywhere.
The Ottawa Senators are back in the house, working out on familiar turf again after a long road trip while curious eyes try to sneak a peek through the arena doors.
And, oh yes, hallways are teeming once more with activity and the buzz that the Bell Capital Cup brings to the Bell Sensplex and dozens of rinks around the nation’s capital each year.
Hockey County indeed, one might suggest.
“It’s been hockey mania over the last week or so,” Bell Capital Cup general manager Aaron Robinson said as the latest edition of the world’s largest hockey tournament wound down toward its finish. “It’s been crazy and it’s been great for the city, especially considering the (hard economic) times right now.”
This has been a hockey holiday season unlike any other before it for lovers of the puck game in Ottawa. The 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship has been the talk of the town, with record audiences filing through the doors at Scotiabank Place over the past few days.
While the WJC forced the Bell Capital Cup out of the big rink for its championship games, nobody here seems to mind. A joyful hockey spirit is evident from the moment you enter the Sensplex on a championship day.
“The one benefit of this facility is that you have four pads going and you have such an atmosphere in the concourse,” said Robinson. “You’ve got semifinals and quarter-finals going on and championship games and overtimes going on in different rinks. There’s intensity and passion for the game and there is a love for the game here.
“Ultimately, we’d love to provide a chance for the kids to use Scotiabank Place but definitely, this facility is 1A (for us).”
Almost from the moment the WJC was awarded to Ottawa, Bell Capital Cup organizers saw an opportunity for a natural link between two great hockey events. Turns out they got an unexpected bonus, with Team Canada scoring star John Tavares also happening to be a past hero of the Bell Capital Cup.
“The one benefit of this facility is that you have four pads going and you have such an atmosphere in the concourse. There’s intensity and passion for the game and there is a love for the game here." - Aaron Robinson
“The kids here knowing that Tavares played in this tournament and scored the winning goal (in the minor atom AAA final in 2001) and letting them go to some of the games and (a Team Canada) practice and all that great stuff … it worked out really well,” said Robinson.
Some 485 teams took part in this year’s Bell Capital Cup, with more than $200,000 raised to assist local charities and minor hockey associations. Soon enough, they’ll begin the long road toward the 2010 event.
“We’re already taking down notes from this year’s tournament and looking toward next year,” said Robinson. “We’ll probably take a couple of weeks off and reflect and look at where we can improve and then definitely get hard at it for next year.”
While the tournament is firmly established as a must-attend event for many teams — Robinson said “probably 75 per cent” of the entries are here through word of mouth — organizers won’t allow themselves to rest on past laurels.
“You’ve got to still work at it in recruiting and marketing the tournament,” said Robinson. “It’s just like business. You’ve got to compete with other tournaments for the teams and for the tourism dollars. You still have to work at it and you can’t take anything for granted.”For more information on the Bell Capital Cup, including championship game results, visit www.bellcapitalcup.ca.