The Play On! street hockey tournament at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport over the weekend was a big hit, and organizers want to come back every year.
“It was outstanding – a great weekend,” said event director Jen Graham. “Everybody was happy.”
“The site is larger, and the surface is fantastic.”
There were 210 teams. While that was down from the last year’s 280 at the tournament in Coquitlam, she said with rosters expanding from seven players to nine, the number of participants was actually comparable.
She said the playing surface is important both for ball control, and for when players fall.
“You’re going to fall down playing ball hockey, and there’s a lot of nasty scrapes.”
In the first four years of the event, there were odd-sized rinks due to site restrictions. But Pitt Meadows accommodated 21 rinks that were the official 100 by 40 feet in size.
There were no yells of “plane” as the players kept themselves and their nets out of the path of incoming airport traffic. But the airport was able to maintain operations during the weekend.
Saturday, everybody played three games, and on Sunday they played through quarterfinals, semis and championship contests.
“It was a huge success, and we would love the community of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge to be our home,” Graham said.
CBC was the presenting sponsor of Play On!, but now Rogers Sportsnet is the new national media sponsor. It still uses the Hockey Night logo, and is two years into re-branding the event.
Graham said the event is meant to inspire a love of hockey.
“Every Canadian kid, truly, has picked up a stick and played in the street. Everyone knows ‘car.’ And you pretend you’re Sidney Crosby.”
The largest Play On! events draw 550 teams in Montreal, or 511 in Edmonton.
Graham would love to see that happen here.
“We have room to grow, and that’s really what we were looking for.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said he was at the event on the weekend, enjoyed a chat with B.C. hockey legend Ernie ‘Punch’ McLean, and saw was well run, bringing thousands of people to the city, and generated no complaints.
“I would like to see them come back again,” adding that the new airport board will need to consider the issue.