Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Bobcats set to enjoy esteemed Quebec Pee Wee tournament

 

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Ron Filion grew up playing hockey in Montreal and knew it was a special experience playing in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, but being so close geographically and already being immersed in the culture, he said he didn’t appreciate it the same way he does now.

And getting the chance to bring teams the southwest of the United States year after year has been truly special for the Arizona Bobcats’ hockey director.

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“Going there with teams from Arizona is truly an incredible experience, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it with my son in two years,” Filion said.

quebec_logo“For me, I’ve been there so many times, and I grew up in the snow, but every year, it’s so cool to bring these kids from Arizona who have never experienced that atmosphere and culture. They are in awe, especially the first few days. You can see it in their smiles and their level of excitement about everything they’re doing.”

The Quebec tournament, the legendary 58-year old event in the picturesque, French-speaking city, has been a highlight of so many young hockey players’ careers. The tournament runs from Feb. 8-19 and typically hosts 150 teams and more than 2,000 players who come from across the United States and Canada, as well as other parts of the world.

It is considered an honor to attend.

Many of the biggest names in professional hockey have played there – from Guy Lafleur to the Gretzky and Howe brothers, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Steven Stamkos – but for most players, it’s not an event that’s focused as much on showcasing their talent as it is about celebrating their passion for the game of hockey.

The Bobcats had sent a team to the Quebec tournament for 10 straight years until missing 2016, and they’re excited to be back in the fold this season. They won their division in 2015, becoming just the second Western team to ever win the event.

“The level of play is really high, but you don’t necessarily go there just for the hockey,” Filion said. “It’s about the overall experience. We have the same billet families that host us year after year, and the kids go ice fishing and snowmobiling. We usually schedule some exhibition games against European teams when we’re there, and we just really soak up the experience.”

The roster for the Bobcats’ Pee Wee team traveling to Quebec includes forwards Kelly Carroll, Palmer Coupe, Brian Ericsson, Cameron Ferraz, Bruce Hubbard, Mighton Johnson, Patrick Lindholm, Jack Livanavage, Charlie Salem, Oren Shtrom, Preston Soderblom and Jack Walters; defensemen Dayton Craik, Dylan Gordon, Ryan Gorzynski, Ryan Hawley, Max Marr and Ethan Poole; and goalies Max Geddes and Gorial Yaro.

Filion and assistant coaches Mark Gordon, Jim Livanavage and Leeor Shtrom will travel with the team, and most players will have one or both of their parents join them in Quebec, as the tournament is truly a memorable family experience.

“Everybody is going – nobody wants to miss it,” Filion said.

“We have three kids on our team who know a little bit about what to expect because their older brothers have played in the tournament, but until you live it and see the atmosphere with 3,000 or 4,000 people in the stands for the first game, you can’t really understand how amazing it is.

“I spend 10 days away from my own family every year to do this, but seeing how excited the kids get and seeing how much they enjoy themselves is the reason I do it. It’s all worth it when you see the kids’ faces. It’s really cool.”

Photo/LRH Photography

— Greg Ball