Tournament hits town

Kingston festivities the centerpiece of cross-country event

The organizers of Play On! expect roughly 700 local players to participate in this weekend’s Kingston tournament.
The organizers of Play On! expect roughly 700 local players to participate in this weekend’s Kingston tournament.

When Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! tournament comes to town, Kingston could be part of a world record.

This year, Play On! plans on becoming the world’s largest street hockey tournament, with around 6,000 teams and 42,000 players taking part in 21 events across the country.

Kingston will host an event for the first time in the tournament’s 10-year history, with nearly 700 players expected to participate on June 29-30.

Play On! had its first event in Halifax in 2003 and since then has grown into Canada’s largest sports festival. The regional events throughout the summer lead up to the National Championship, which this year will be held in Yarmouth, NS.

Tourism Kingston estimates between 5,000 and 8,000 spectators will pack Parade Square at RMC for the Kingston festivities.

With the large number of people showing up for the games, it’s clear the tournament will have an impact on the local hockey scene.

“It gives people another opportunity to play hockey in the city, or generate and drive tourism to the city of Kingston,” said National Program Manager Brandon Pickard.

On a national scale, Play On! tries to work closely with professional and junior teams in each region.

The tournament has partnered up with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs and local minor hockey organizations for the Kingston event.

Play On! offers players a less expensive option, as they don’t need the pricey equipment required for ice hockey.

“We’re based on an easy entry for kids to participate in sports,” Pickard said. “All you need is a stick and some running shoes and you’re good to go.”

The age divisions are set up to allow children as young as seven and adults as old as 65 to take part.

Alongside the tournament’s usual game play, there’s also a celebrity ball hockey game with a Queen’s connection.

Former London Knights goaltender and Gaels men’s hockey recruit Kevin Bailie will take part in the celebrity game alongside Frontenacs forward Darcy Greenaway. Play On! is looking to add more local hockey participants, including NHL players past and present.

The tournament brings out some fun amongst competitors through the names that teams choose to take on.

Pickard said some of the best names he’s heard have been puns on NHL players’ names, such as Teach Me How to Doughty and Straight Out of Conklin.

With Play On! designed for players of all skill levels and ages, it gives hockey players — and those who don’t play — a different experience.

“I think everybody across the country has played hockey at some point,” Pickard said. “Having an organized street hockey tournament is just something that’s cool and unique.”

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