The puck is definitely stopping here this weekend.
Arenas throughout the Orillia area have been filled to capacity this weekend with hockey players from across Ontario playing in the annual Jim Wilson Classic.
Sixty teams playing in divisions ranging from minor atom to midget are taking part in the 28th annual tournament with games being held at Rotary Place and Brian Orser Arena in Orillia, the Rama MASK and the Coldwater Community Centre.
“We’re a central location so we get a lot of teams coming from the east, north, south and west,” said tournament co-organizer Mike Borrelli, pointing out participating teams come from Kapuskasing, Ottawa and Windsor and all points in-between.
Orillia has nine teams in the tournament while rival Barrie has a half-dozen teams.
“Orillia’s always been rich with talent,” Borrelli said. “We will likely have about seven Orillia teams playing Sunday for the big prize.”
Ed Desjardine, a Barrie-Innisfil-based referee, is participating in the tournament for the first time this weekend.
“As a referee, I prefer tournament play,” said Desjardine, who’s overseeing midget games in Orillia.
“The kids are more into it than a regular league game. They’re definitely more pumped up.”
Orillia resident Lance Trumble was watching his son Adam play during a back-and-forth peewee game against New Hamburg Saturday afternoon.
“He’s the youngest of my three sons, so I’ve been coming to this tournament for about 10 years,” Trumble said, noting the high number of returning teams each year says a lot about the organizers.
“I think when you have repeat participants it says something good about the tournament because a well-organized tournament makes for a happy tournament.
“It’s also nice to get them (away teams) up here and it’s a bit of an economic driver as well.”
Borrelli agreed and noted that hotels are near capacity and those without Saturday night supper reservations will likely find there are no available tables at city restaurants.
“We get a lot of returnee teams and we get nothing but praise for this venue (Rotary Place).”
And despite its large scale that includes nearly 1,200 players and coaches, the tournament is run by a relatively small group of fewer than a dozen volunteers.
“One of the things we have going for us is experience,” Borrelli said, adding the tournament’s also benefited greatly over the years from a strong title sponsor.
The tournament continues Sunday with finals and knockout games in each division with most games slated for Rotary Place. To check out the schedule or to see updated results, visit the tournament page at orilliahockey.com.