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No ice needed for this very Canadian brand of hockey

Young hockey enthusiasts will hit the pavement this month for the 24th annual Optimist Road Hockey Tournament.

Steve Bisbee from the Elmira Optimist Club says they’re hoping to see at least 30 teams for the event. The tournament starts at 8 a.m. at Park Manor Public School on the tennis courts. Teams are made up of five kids: four players and a goalie. And there are four age categories from seven to 14, for both boys and girls.

“It’s a double-elimination tournament, meaning you have to lose two games to be gone,” Bisbee said. “The referees from Woolwich Minor Hockey officiate the games. The kids come out and play road hockey and have a great time.”

He said lots of volunteers come out to make the event run smoothly, including high school students looking to fulfill their volunteer hours, and everyone has a good time.

“It’s cool to see the event, a fun event for everybody involved,” Bisbee said. “We really try to take the stress out of it. The minor hockey referees really do a good job of officiating, not a penalty, but maybe a quiet time if kids are getting too excited.”

Registration is $50 per team, which he says is a deal compared to other road hockey tournaments where it costs from $80 to $120 per team. And most of the money goes back to the kids one way or another. The team who wins first place will double their money and the second place team gets their money back. Each player also gets a hot dog, drink, a mini stick with the Optimist logo on it, and the rest of the money goes back into community programs.

“The Optimist Club is quite an interesting organization in that we really make money to give it away,” Bisbee said. “All the money we make goes back to kids, actually in Elmira predominantly. We’ll take anybody’s money but we only give to the kids in Elmira. Just about every organization in town, girls hockey, boys hockey, gymnastics, ringette, Scouts, youth bowling, they’ve all received money from us at one point. Recently we had the arena project; we donated $25,000 to the arena.”

The teams will be broken down into four divisions, 7 and 8s, 9 and 10s, 11 and 12s, and 13s and 14s. They started the event just to be a fun day for kids. They had a dozen teams the first year, and it’s grown ever since. They used to hold in the old arena, but they outgrew it. The event will go on rain or shine, but he said they’ve been lucky in the past.

“It’s kind of interesting, the parents will always say thanks,” Bisbee said. “The kids, every now and then someone will come by and say ‘thanks, what a good job.’ I don’t think we’ve really gotten any negative feedback. It’s kind of cool whenever a kid says thanks.”

All the schools in Elmira and Floradale have been contacted and they’re handing out applications for interested students. Bisbee encourages anyone interested to sign up or just come watch.

The event runs on April 25 and registration ends on April 18. To register, email Bisbee at optimist.roadhockey@gmail.com.

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