By MARIO ANNICCHIARICO
The holiday season is a time for family and giving, but if you’re a member of BC Hockey, it’s also an occasion to partake in one of a number of festive tournaments on display across the province.
The Victoria Admirals U15 Tier 1 team is one of 20 competing in its age group in the Pat Quinn Classic, held December 27-31 in Burnaby and assistant coach Matt Laird’s charges are excited about the opportunity to not only participate, but bond during the event.
“They’re pretty calm,” Laird said after a recent practice. “They’re 14-year-olds so when you ask them about it, they really don’t know how to respond, but I think they are (excited). You could see the twinkle in their eye.
“Tournaments are (a time to bond). We always have a lot of fun at the hotel and just getting to hang out as a team and do all that stuff. You go through the highs and lows, and, in the end, you hope to play in that gold-medal game. But you have definitely bonded along the way and the kids always have so much fun. And the parents too. Who am I kidding?” he added with a chuckle.
The Admirals have already participated in a pair of tournaments this 2023-24 season and look forward to the next one.
“I’m looking forward to it. I think we’re all excited about going,” said assistant captain Ben Kucherawy. “We want to make sure we go in with the right mindset and do the best we can every game.
“But we also have a lot of team events and we get along real well at the hotel (during tournament play). It’s right after Christmas and we get a chance to play hockey again, so it should be fun,” he said of the upcoming Pat Quinn Classic.
Laird says the team pick tournaments they’re interested in playing in at the beginning of the year and then apply accordingly.
“We got accepted and we’re happy to be in it. It is at holiday time and hockey is a big thing at holiday time, with the World Juniors and all. With a name like Pat Quinn, it carries some weight. You’ve got a Hall of Famer and some pedigree there, so it makes it that much more exciting.”
To date, the Admirals are 5-3-1 in Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association League play.
“We started out a little rocky, but we knew what we had to work with, and we’ve impressed upon the kids the importance of teamwork and coming together as a team and understanding what that means. Learning how to play together,” said Laird. “We have been competing well and the kids have bought into what we want to do.
“With that comes some wins and some excitement and the kids are having a lot of fun. I’m sure it will carry through to this tournament.”
“We’re doing well, near the top of our league,” said Kucherawy, who plays centre. “It’s my second year, so it’s a bit easier that way.”
The U15 tournament final is set for December 31 at 3:15 p.m. and will be livestreamed at https://patquinnclassic.com/live-stream/.
Mario Annicchiarico is a freelance writer based in Victoria who has previously covered the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Western Hockey League.