The first Western Canada Cup was one to remember.
The five-team junior A hockey championship tournament concluded Sunday at Frank Crane Arena, ending a longer-than-usual hockey season in Nanaimo.
It may have been the inaugural WCC tourney, but it didn’t look like it. Canadian Junior A Hockey League president Kirk Lamb told tournament chairman Graham Calder it looked like the 10th annual Westerns, not the first.
“This has been an amazing experience,” said Paul Dyck, coach of Manitoba’s Steinbach Pistons. “The host committee’s done a great job here; we’ve been treated very, very well. And it’s a beautiful part of the country to come play and I know the guys have enjoyed everything about this experience.”
Fans seemed to like the hockey, too. All the out-of-town teams brought cheering sections, adding to the atmosphere at the rink. Attendance at Frank Crane wasn’t up from the regular season, but it wasn’t down, either, not even with beach weather testing the dedication of Clippers fans by Saturday afternoon.
“We had a pretty decent turnout for that,” said Calder. “We had about 1,100 for that game and look at the weather we were dealing with.”
He said there were no real targeted attendance figures for the Western Canada Cup, but he was generally satisfied.
“Throughout the week we got a sense that the crowds were meeting what we budgeted for,” he said.
The fact that the hometown Nanaimo Clippers made it to the WCC’s playoff round was a positive for tournament organizers.
“It certainly kept us in the news, it kept people talking about it around town,” Calder said.
He thanked the 170 volunteers for ”their dedication, energy, friendliness” and mentioned the hard work of his tournament organizing committee.
A Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model report has been commissioned to more closely determine the impacts of the WCC in Nanaimo, and Calder said he “absolutely” expects it to be good news.
“The committee ourselves, putting this thing on, spent half a million dollars,” he said. “We bought food for the teams, we paid for the hotel rooms, we paid the local transportation, we paid the City of Nanaimo $30,000 for the ice rental and for the social centre.”
Whatever the economic-impact report shows, it is only one way to measure success at this sort of tournament.
“Aside from the dollars that were spent … or the people that came through the door, to me the real success of the tournament has been the goodwill that I think we’ve built,” Calder said. “I think we built some goodwill toward the Nanaimo Clippers and that was very important.
“All in all I know we created a favourable impression as a result of this tournament.”