101 teams will compete in 16 divisions this weekend in Orillia
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times The Orillia Hawks peewee house league team are shown in action during last year’s Orillia Hawks Girls’ Hockey Tournament. This year, 101 teams will compete in 16 divisions, with action kicking off Friday morning at local rinks.
The city’s most popular hockey tournament will be bigger than ever this year. This weekend’s 21st annual Orillia Hawks Tournament, organized by the Orillia Girls Hockey Association (OGHA), will feature 101 teams – breaking the record 83 teams that attended a year ago.
“We were able to secure extra ice in Barrie and Gravenhurst and that allowed us to accept more teams this year,” said tournament co-ordinator Angela Whitten. “It’s pretty amazing how this tournament has grown.”
The annual girls’ hockey tourney started in 1996 with 24 teams. This year, 10 Orillia Hawks teams will compete against 91 out-of-town squads in the three-day, 16-division event that kicks off early Friday morning. The divisions range from novice to midget and include various skill levels from house league to competitive.
“This is the first year in a long time that every one of our teams is participating in the tournament,” said OGHA executive Shawna Torkoff. “Our girls really look forward to this tournament and the opportunity to spend time with their buddies. It will be a great weekend of hockey and lots of memories will be made.”
This season, more than 160 local girls are playing hockey under the OGHA umbrella – a record number for the growing organization. “Girls hockey has become quite popular,” said Torkoff. “We’re really proud of the way the sport has developed here.”
The twin rinks of Rotary Place will serve as tournament headquarters, but action will also take place at Brian Orser Arena, Mnjikaning Arena Sports Ki in Rama, Coldwater Community Centre, the Oro-Medonte Arena in Guthrie, the East Bayfield Centre in Barrie and the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre. Round-robin games will start Friday and the tournament concludes with championship games in each division on Sunday.
While the tournament has attracted a record number of teams, if there were more ice time and more hotel rooms, that number could be even larger, said Whitten. “We had waiting lists in every single division and had to turn away seven teams (Monday). People love to come here. It’s grown into one of the largest tournaments in the province.”
Whitten attributed the growth and popularity of the Orillia event to its timing, geography, quality of arenas and amenities and the organizers’ commitment to hosting a well-run event. “I think we’ve always put on a great tournament and many teams come back year after year because of that,” she said.
The popular event could not be held without the tireless efforts of volunteers. On the weekend itself, about 80 volunteers are needed to ensure the event runs smoothly for the more than 1,400 athletes who will compete in about 185 games over three days.
Torkoff said she expects Orillia teams to be competitive against teams from across the province and encourages hockey fans to come out to local rinks to see how the girls’ game has evolved; there is no admission charge. “It’s a great opportunity to come out and watch great hockey,” said Torkoff, who noted vendors will be at area rinks selling mostly hockey-related goods.
For game times and other information, visit the tournament page at orilliagirlshockey.com.