The York-Simcoe Express is sending a team to one of the most prestigious minor hockey tournaments in the world for the first time in more than a decade.
Its U13 team has made it to play in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament running Feb. 8 to 19. The invite-only competition features teams from around the world coming to Quebec City for an 11-day event.
Team head coach Kyle Bishop said it is a testament to the hard work of his young squad.
“It’s quite an honour,” Bishop said. “The team is extremely excited for the opportunity. I think they understand how big the tournament is and how many elite hockey players who have played in the tournament have gone on to the NHL.”
The tournament has an application process that factors in team performance, with this year's U13 squad making it thanks to a league-leading 12-3-2 start to the year. This is the first time a York-Simcoe team has made it since 2012/13.
The tournament strives to ensure it has the best teams, Bishop said. He credited his team’s effort to make it happen and said they are working well together.
“We have a lot of very singularly talented players, but at the end of the day, it’s a team sport. No individual can win the game,” he said. “The team’s been so successful through hard work and team play.”
But the history of the organization certainly helped as well, Bishop added. NHL superstar Connor McDavid notably played for the Express and in this tournament in 2008/09. The association has also produced plenty of other NHLers.
“Having the history of the organization and all this talent being a part of it, I think it definitely helps,” Bishop said.
York-Simcoe Express president Darren Burd expressed pride in the team for making it into the competition.
“The tournament allows our players to showcase their skills against some of the best players from across the globe,” he said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime for both the team and their families, and we wish them great success while enjoying the experience."
The team does have a challenge ahead of it to fundraise for the tournament. Between travel and accommodation and food costs for a week or more, Bishop said the price could well exceed $30,000. The association is covering part of that, but the team will be selling raffle tickets and holding auctions in the future.
“It is a significant investment in money and time from the parent group, the leadership team, the association,” one of the team’s parents, Barclay Morton said. “For really that once-in-a-lifetime experience, which it truly is.”
As far as preparation, the team is taking it day-by-day, for now, Bishop said, adding that they do not want to do too much with a team so young.
But he added that at a tournament like this, anyone can win on any given night.
“The great thing about a tournament is every game starts zero-zero,” he said. “We’re going to be there and do our best and see what happens.”
You can purchase raffle tickets or inquire about fundraising efforts by contacting [email protected].