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Wildcats take pride in tournament offerings



Wildcats Hockey Club is proud of many things it’s improved upon since it began transforming the program in recent years. One element leadership is particularly excited about is the quality of the tournaments it showcases every year.

The Wildcats will host a number of tournaments between now and the end of the 2015-16 season, and place a heavy emphasis on the four events scheduled around Thanksgiving, Christmas, Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day.

The Fall Classic will be held from Nov. 27-29; the Winter Holiday Shootout from Dec. 26-28; the Presidents’ Day Open from Feb. 12-15, 2016; and the Memorial Day Showdown from May 27-30, 2016.

All four events will feature divisions at both of the Wildcats’ home rinks in Riverside and Carlsbad.

“We’re really looking forward to those bigger tournaments on our schedule,” Wildcats president Ben Frank said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do from a tournament standpoint and, even though it’s a lot of work for everyone within our organization, it’s worth it to us to host what we feel are terrific events.”

For the Fall Classic, the Wildcats’ Carlsbad rink will host Mite Track I and II and Squirt BB and B divisions, while the Riverside location will host Pee Wee through High School divisions.

For the December, February and May tournaments, locations for each division will be determined at a later date. Interested coaches can check the Wildcats’ Web site for updates.

Frank said he expects anywhere from 50-70 teams at each tournament. When they first started running tournaments, the Wildcats would draw eight to 15 teams.

“A lot of teams have come back every year because they’ve enjoyed it so much, and they’ll bring teams from other age divisions within their club. It’s been just about five years now, and these tournaments just continue to grow.

“Especially the Thanksgiving, Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day tournaments – they’ve gotten really big. We have a lot of teams that come from Colorado, Utah, Las Vegas and the Vancouver area.”

Frank said that the Wildcats’ location is a major plus, as teams from other areas are attracted to the idea of visiting Southern California and all it has to offer off the ice – particularly during the fall, winter and early-spring months.

In addition, all of the Wildcats’ tournaments feature a four-game guarantee, plus top-notch awards for winning teams and top individuals in each division. On top of that, all participants receive a unique tournament gift – anything from mini-sticks to bag tags, depending on the tournament.

Darlene Hird is the Wildcats’ tournament director and the person most responsible for the organization’s events running so smoothly, Frank said.

Hird has been in her current role since the club started running tournaments, and works directly with team managers and coaches not only during tournament weekends, but also for many weeks leading up to each event.

“She does a great job and has been a big part of the success of our events,” Frank said.

While it’s a lot of work to host tournaments throughout the hockey season, there are definitely some benefits, including the ability to limit travel in the midst of already-busy schedules and the opportunity to expand on club camaraderie.

“To be able to stay home on these holiday weekends and still play against top teams from different areas is a huge plus,” Frank said. “And it’s fun to be a host at your own rink and welcome other teams to your town and your facilities.

“It’s sort of a bonding experience for our club, too, because you have so many of our teams playing all in the same place at the same time. It’s great for the culture of our program.”

– Greg Ball

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