The 44th annual edition of the VEMHA (Valley East Minor Hockey Association) Tyke/Novice/Atom Tournament has a twist or two in store for participants and their families, this weekend in Valley East.
Attracting 57 teams, including representation from the likes of Schumacher, Gore Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Powassan, Chapleau, Wikwemikong, North Bay, Timmins, and the traditionally large local showing, the local event remains conscious of the challenges facing many folks involved in minor sports.
"We're noticing, as with all the other associations, that applications are falling," stated tournament chair Heidi Paquette. "If we have more activities for the kids, maybe it will entice more teams to look at our tournament."
"We're looking to make it more like a carnival/tournament." With that in mind, the area in and around the Ray Plourde (Confederation) Arena will be a beehive of activity over the next few days.
Beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, the folks from Wagon Wheel Ranch will be on site, offering horse-drawn sleigh rides at a price of just two dollars, with proceeds being donated to the Brain Injury Association (BIA).
That group will also be on hand, offering helmet-fitting and concussion awareness discussions, as well as supplying parents with a coupon towards the purchase of standard approved new helmets.
Scotiabank has also jumped aboard as a major sponsor, and will be staging a "puck-shooting" area, complete with the radar gun, registering just how close the youngsters are to becoming the next Shea Weber.
Face painting, action photos and trophies and prizes galore round out the resume for the tournament, with games kicking off Friday morning in Val Caron (Confederation), Hanmer (Centennial) and Capreol.