California events unveil secret behind OneHockey success
You only get one chance to make a memorable first impression, and OneHockey California’s debut last Thanksgiving weekend certainly passed the test.
During the first holiday extravaganza in its home state for the world’s No. 1 hockey tournament organizer, 34 West Coast teams descended on the L.A. Kings IceTown rinks in Riverside for their introduction to the acclaimed OneHockey Experience, forever changing those players’ and coaches’ expectations of what a youth hockey tournament should deliver on and off the ice.
“Nobody around here has ever seen anything like us before,” said Sebastien Fortier, the Laguna Hills resident who founded OneHockey in 2003. “They loved the tournament, and there’s going to be more to come. We’re going to hold tournaments in California pretty much every holiday weekend.”
The next one took place this month back in Riverside for the OneHockey California-Presidents Day Weekend tourney, which ran Feb. 16-19. This festival-like spectacle was a five-game-guaranteed event that featured competition for the Pee Wee through Midget/high school age groups at the B, A and AA levels.
“We impressed tons people during Thanksgiving weekend with nearly 40 teams for a first-time tournament,” said Fortier. “And we impressed a whole bunch more Presidents Day weekend. We are definitely impressing them at the IceTown rinks in Carlsbad and Riverside and soon, around more arenas around California.”
The Icetown rinks in both communities are year-round facilities owned and operated by the NHL franchise that offer everything from youth and adult hockey to figure skating, sled hockey and broomball. Players from Southern California as well as the Southwest corner of the country are certainly familiar with the Riverside and Carlsbad twin-sheet locations. But these same players could soon be shut out from these events in their own backyards due to the popularity of the recently that added stops on the OneHockey calendar.
“It’s going to become more difficult for Southern California, Arizona and even Colorado teams to play in our tournaments here because we expect soon that more than 50 percent of the teams playing in these new events will be from outside this area,” said Fortier, whose group organizes and hosts more than 25 tournaments year-round around the world, including a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in Moscow this August thanks to a partnership with legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. “Teams from across the U.S. and Canada follow OneHockey wherever we go, and we’re already receiving a lot of interest in our California tournaments for next season.”
Later in 2018, OneHockey will return to the IceTown locations for Memorial Day and Fourth of July tourneys as well as the second Thanksgiving weekend extravaganza. Fortier urges the West Coast youth hockey community to take a moment to view the YouTube video that recaps the 2017 event for a brief initiation to what the OneHockey Experience is all about.
“If they watch this video, they’ll say, ‘Whoa, this is crazy! We have to play in this!’” he insists.
A OneHockey event is anything but your everyday tournament at your neighborhood rink.
The experience starts by transforming each venue into a OneHockey Arena with hundreds of feet of banners, posters and flags. That’s followed with the amusing mascot and festive music streaming throughout each rink as well as a mini-expo of vendors and red carpet social media interviews taking place in the lobby. And, of course, there’s the trademark championship celebrations complete with the OneHockey Cup raising and non-alcoholic champagne showers.
Besides providing the most entertaining events the industry has to offer, OneHockey will also be making history in December as Fortier’s group embarks on setting a Guinness World Record for hosting the largest tournament ever. OneHockey is partnering with the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association to put on the largest tourney the sport has ever seen during the Holiday Invite 2018 across the Great Lakes State. California and Southwest U.S. youth hockey programs interested in being part of a world-record hockey festival should register now at www.onehockey.com.
— Kevin Conway
(March 6, 2018)