Shaw Meadows Boltz players experience first Esso Minor Hockey Week

The NHL’s return to action is not the only big hockey event taking place in Calgary this week. A much bigger spectacle is taking place on more than 50 rinks in Calgary.

While over 30 players and nine coaches take to the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, 11,000 minor hockey players, and 3,200 coaches are participating in the 43rd Esso Minor Hockey Week.

This is the largest hockey tournament in the world, according to Guinness World Records.

“There are 52 rinks in Calgary, so whatever rink you pop into you will see the Esso Minor Hockey tournament going on,” says Christina Rogers, manager of events for Hockey Calgary.

Rogers says what makes this tournament special is that many of the parents who have children playing in the tournament, played in it themselves at one point.

The tournament began with the opening ceremonies on Jan. 11. There was a feature game and then the rest of the games kicked off on Saturday.

Each of the 655 teams attempt to qualify for one of the 68 gold-medal games taking place all across Calgary rinks on Saturday.

Shaw Meadows goaltender Carson Kurucz was instrumental in the Boltz victory against the Chiefs.

Photo by Quinton Amundson

A brand new bonus for this year’s tournament is that each member of a championship team will receive a ticket to a Calgary Hitmen game.

The journey of the Shaw Meadows Boltz

One of the bigger underdogs competing in this year’s tournament is the Shaw Meadows Boltz, which plays out of the South Fish Creek Arenas.

The Boltz are a novice team dressing seven- and eight-year-old players. There are a couple of nine-year-olds on the team as well.

The team played in a couple of tournaments before the Christmas break and won only one game.

Boltz coach Brad Kurucz is taking part in his third Esso Minor Hockey tournament. He says he loves “the tournament atmosphere and seeing the kids having fun.”

Lisa Evans, mother of Boltz players Payten and Ryker, says she likes the tournament because “you get to play different teams in different quadrants of the city.”

The magnitude of this tournament appears to have brought out the best in the Boltz.

After a loss to the Trails West Wolves on Saturday, the Boltz bounced back with what Kurucz considered his team’s best game of the season on Monday.

The Boltz scored three breakaway goals to take a 3-0 lead before the opposition, the Blackfoot Chiefs, scored two goals to cut the lead to 3-2.

Shaw Meadows goaltender Carson Kurucz shut the door from that point onward, and the Boltz added another goal to skate off the ice with a 4-2 win.

Nine-year-old Carson Deis says that he was proud of his team’s win because they played great together.

“What I love about this tournament is that I get to go down to the arena, play hockey and have fun,” Deis says.

On Tuesday, the Boltz had a chance to qualify for the final at the Stu Peppard Arena against the Midnapore Wolverines but came up short in the shootout, losing 5-4.

While the Boltz were eliminated,136 other teams will battle for gold.

qamundson@cjournal.ca