Photo by Don Fennell
Seven years ago, one of the NHL’s current young guns spent a portion of his Christmas holidays playing hockey in Richmond.
And even then it was apparent Auston Matthews was special.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ star centre was a member of the Arizona Bobcats U16 AAA team participating in the Midget Major Division at the 2012 Richmond International Bantam Midget Hockey Tournament. Sporting his familiar No. 34, he scored seven goals (nearly a quarter of his team’s total) in seven games to lift his team to a 5-2 record.
The tournament has been a launching pad for other future NHLers as well, notably former New Jersey forward Scott Gomez who suited up for a team from Anchorage, Alaska in the 1990s. Alaska has been a consistent supporter of the tournament, sending several teams each year.
The 2018 tournament, sponsored by the Sheraton, Marriott and Hilton Vancouver Airport hotels, will be the 38th annual and the first with the Richmond Jets (an amalgamation of Richmond and Seafair minor hockey associations) as hosts. It is scheduled for Dec. 26 to 31 with games at Minoru Arenas, Richmond Ice Centre and the Richmond Olympic Oval.
In all, more than 70 rep teams will participate in the event which is one of the biggest in North America.