Hosting national tournament is ‘win-win-win’

Hundreds of people came to Fredericton this past weekend for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey championships. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Mayor Brad Woodside hopes people understand why he wasn’t around much this weekend.

He blames it on his love for hockey.

For the second consecutive year, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey championship was hosted by the University of New Brunswick right here in Fredericton.

And if you were looking for the mayor, he was at the Aitken Centre taking in all the games.

It’s been a great boost for Fredericton during the tourism off-season, said Woodside.

“It’s a time of year when tourism is yet to begin, so it’s definitely a plus to be hosting it,” he said. “It fills hotels, has people in bars, increases retail sales.”

Wayne Tallon, director of community services with the city, was on a steering committee to help organize travel for players and VIPs.

He said in the absence of a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team, the UNB hockey team has become known as Fredericton’s team to watch.

“I think both university teams are the city’s teams. In my opinion, the quality of hockey both these teams show are top-notch, comparable to any QMJHL team,” he said.

“That’s why so many in the community head out to support them.”

This is the fourth men’s hockey championship UNB has hosted since 2003.

The CIS award the university cup tournament to a different city every two years. Fredericton has hosted the last two years, and Tallon said Saskatoon, Saskatchewan won the bid for next year.

“We’ve been working hard at sport tourism,” Tallon said. “Something like hosting the CIS championships provides some pretty significant spin-off.”

With six teams, their entourage and fans, Tallon predicted the economic return will be in the millions.

People appreciate any sport when it’s played at the level of the Varsity Reds, Woodside said.

“It’s the best hockey program in the country,” he said. “If hockey is your thing, there will be no doubt [UNB] will satisfy that love.”

It certainly satisfies young Fredericton hockey players.

Eric Holman, director of advertising and publicity with Fredericton’s Youth Hockey Association, said he feels UNB hockey is something that “local Fredericton hockey fans can look up to and enjoy.”

“They…are seen by these young hockey players making a difference in the community and on the ice,” Holman said. “I know that there [were] many locals interested in the CIS’s coming to Fredericton this year.”

Middle schoolers in the Fredericton area were allowed into games free of charge, and the Fredericton Youth Hockey Association’s Timbit hockey players were given ice time during intermission periods throughout the weekend.

“These hockey players have become idols in the community,” Tallon said. “For [Timbit players] to play in the Aitken Centre, well, it’s really exciting for them.

“Hosting the championships, it’s a win-win-win situation for the city, and hopefully for the Varsity Reds.”