By Bernie C. Pratt
Hundreds of teams from across the globe apply for the honor of competing in the grandest pee wee hockey venue of them all, The Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament. This annual rite of passage is held in and around the gothic 300 year old Quebec City, which overlooks the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In the AAA Division, the highest caliber level, 32 are chosen. Of those 32, one was our own Chicago Young Americans Pee Wee (2002) team.
Amidst the spectacular outdoor fun of Canada’s Le Belle Province’s Winter Carnival featuring the boundless enthusiasm of Master of Ceremonies, ‘Bonhomme Carnaval’, (a giant snowman, not unlike the Michelin man, only scarier), these young men carried the pride of a city on their shoulders into battle. And battle they did.
The Pepsi Colisée, as the home town rink is known, former home of the NHL Quebec Nordiques, was the main battleground for the team to ply its trade. In their tournament opening game, our CYA team flexed their sticks long enough to hold off the pressure of the Lac St-Louis Nord Lions with a final score of 3-2. Their next tune-up game was an annihilation of Team Slovakia by a final score of 8-1. This was quickly followed by a tighter scoring win vs. Team Bratislava with a 2-1 final for their efforts.
This roster from top to bottom, under the tutelage of Head Coach Nick DeSalvo and his strong supporting cast, looks like a team of destiny. Their crisp, hard passes are only surpassed by their tenaciousness on the puck as well as any opposing player foolish enough to try and hang on to it for more than a second – or less.
In the ‘one-and-done’ elimination games, CYA played to a 2-2 draw against the South Shore Kings.
With a myriad of winter sports and entertainment options, mixed with the merriment of a nation known for its love of winter, the team enjoyed some down time with an Old Town team walkabout. Included in their journeys through the winter land of Quebec were outings to snow tubing and a visit to a hotel made entirely out of ice. Whether any of the players skated down the hallways and corridors is a well-guarded team kept secret.
As Lachlan Getz said about his experiences, “I was very excited. I saw all the different architecture and different people. It has been an exciting trip.”
The team’s next challenge was against the Oakville Rangers at the Pepsi Colisée. With thousands of fans filling the stands to cheer them on, the boys fought and won a fast paced two way game by a 2-1 score.
If there is one element of this team you can know without much thought, it is that they can score, and score in heaps, almost at will. That said, with the exception of the 8-1 blowout against the Slovaks at the Constrobourg Complexe, all the games were decided by a single goal in low scoring clashes. The low scoring tilts give an accurate flavor of the extreme level of competition they would taste throughout the tournament.
In their final push toward the championship the team outhustled, outplayed, but ultimately were stoned by Drummondville’s exceptional goalie in a shootout loss final of 2-3. Quebec, for reasons we will never know, has consistently produced the premier goaltenders of the NHL for more than 75 years of hockey. So, with chins up and pride intact our CYA-ers concluded their wonderful trip by exchanging team pins, celebrating a birthday, and waving good bye to an experience of a lifetime. In their hearts and ours, they did us proud. Three cheers to them.
A passionate hockey coach to his very core, Bernie Pratt has been perfecting his hockey analysis and voice since his childhood in Churchill, Manitoba. What began as a drive to keep warm, have fun after school, and always be armed against the polar bears, in the coldest corner of the continent has evolved into a contagious expertise and coaching skillset, inspiring kids, parents and fans alike. Currently the head coach of the winning Skokie Bantam Flyers, a team he notes has a record far superior to his beloved Maple Leafs, Bernie enjoys writing, traveling, coaching and sharing his hockey love and lore with anyone willing to listen!