Bobcats gearing up for annual Quebec Pee Wee tournament
A group of 12-year-old hockey players from the Arizona Bobcats is just a few weeks away from playing in a tournament that many of them will later look back on as the most memorable of their youth hockey experiences.
The Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, the legendary 59-year old event in the quaint and hockey crazy Canadian city, has been a highlight of so many young players’ careers. The tournament runs from Feb. 7-18 at the Videotron Centre.
As many as 2,000 players representing 150 teams from across the United States, Canada and other parts of the world attend the tournament, and it is considered an honor to be accepted.
The Bobcats had sent a team to the Quebec tournament for 10 straight years until missing 2016, then returned last February. Three years ago, the program won its division, becoming just the second Western team to ever win the event.
“This year, our 2005 AAA group will have the chance to enjoy the biggest hockey event in the world,” said Ron Filion, the Bobcats’ hockey director. “Every year, there is the same level of excitement. We had the chance to win this prestigious tournament once at the highest level, but the Québec experience is way more than just hockey.”
The roster for the Bobcats’ Pee Wee team traveling to Quebec includes forwards Sheldon Wilson, Hayden Hastings, Camden Kunkel, Jake LeDoux, Preston Jones, Brody Hernandez, Carson McGinley, Trace Day and Logan Walz; defensemen Holden Hrabak, Michael Saunders, David Keene, Hawke Huff, Sam Webster and Tyler Pavao; and goalies Elizabeth Ramsey and Blaise Becker. The squad is coached by Filion and assistant Scott Wilson, with Mike Hensdell, Pat Conacher and Justin Rogers also contributing. Jodie Wilson is the team’s manager and the organization’s concussion coordinator.
Players such as Guy Lafleur, the Gretzky and Howe brothers, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and Steven Stamkos have played at the Quebec event before going on to becoming NHL stars, but for most players and teams that attend, there’s much more to the event than just the competition on the ice. It’s a 12-day celebration of hockey that also mixes in a healthy dose of culture.
“I think the players are going to come back and say it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done,” Jodie Wilson said. “As much as we talk about it, they don’t really have an idea of what they’re going to experience there. I am personally very excited for Sheldon, my son, to experience this opportunity and create hockey memories of a lifetime.
“It has been hard work planning the event for the team, but knowing what these players will experience, it’s all worth it, and it wouldn’t have happened without the support and fundraising efforts of our parent group.”
Many of the Bobcats players will billet with local families who have been taking in kids from around the world for years – an experience the Arizona players have never had before. Outside of official tournament games, there are opportunities for exhibition games and pond hockey games, and kids get to experience other winter outdoor activities like snow tubing.
“I’ve heard lots of players over the years who attended this tourney during their Pee Wee years still to this day talk about their memories from when they played, so I think this is something our players are going to remember forever,” Scott Wilson said. “When you combine hockey, Canada and the world’s largest Pee Wee tournament, you can’t help but get excited.”
He said he’s looking forward to the Bobcats’ kids to getting the opportunity to play against international teams, as well as the pin trading that has become a big part of the tournament and the camaraderie between teams.
“I think the snow and cold weather, and just the atmosphere are going to be things that we all really enjoy,” Scott Wilson said. “I think it will be a lot of fun for the kids.”
— Greg Ball
(Jan. 24, 2018)