The Brantford Community Hockey League (BCHL) is welcoming teams to the area for the 36th annual Tournament of Friends from Thursday, November 24 to Sunday, November 27.
Sandra Gange, General Manager of the BCHL, said that the annual tournament is about more than just who takes home the championship banners.
“This tournament is special because it is a ‘beginning of the season’ tournament,” she said. “Many of these teams haven’t played a game together yet, so it’s really an opportunity for them to start bonding, getting to know each other and ultimately making friends.”
Across five divisions, the tournament will host 52 teams over the course of the weekend, the most in its history since dropping the rep teams.
“House league often gets pushed back and overshadowed, but the goal of the Tournament of Friends is to give these players a chance to shine,” Gagne said. “We celebrate the progression of teams at the tournament and organizations continue to come back every year because of the valuable experience it gives players.”
This year, the tournament is creating a new tradition with the players and teams to honour its roots.
“In the past, Brantford teams would give friendship pins to their first opponents of the tournament,” Gagne explained. “This tradition was stopped due to COVID last year, however this year we have revamped it. After every game, each team will select a player of the game from the opposing team to receive an award. It gives the kids an opportunity to recognize their opponents by celebrating their performance. This is what our tournament is all about.”
Fifty-two teams from 27 cities and towns will come to Brantford for the tournament, some as far as Vaughan.
“We are very lucky to be in such a central location to host this tournament,” Gagne said. “We are able to work with these teams to fulfill their house league commitments, while also giving them the opportunity to participate in the tournament. We keep the prices down and guarantee four games so a lot of teams come back every year because it is a great way to develop at the beginning of the season. We try to make it flexible and fun for everyone involved.”
The BCHL was the first hockey organization in Brantford, originally known as the Brantford Church Hockey Association.
“Our league is for the community,” Gagne said. “We want to give everyone the chance to play competitive hockey, without the financial, physical and mental commitment required by rep hockey. We have programs to assist low-income families enroll their kids in our organization, and we thank our community’s ongoing support to make that possible.”
The tournament will take over the Brantford Civic Centre and the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre from Thursday, November 24 to Saturday, November 26. The championship games will be played at the Civic Centre, BCHL’s home arena, on Sunday, November 27.