Winkler and Morden will be sharing hosting duties next November as the National Women’s Under-18 Championship rolls into town.
“Any time that Hockey Canada is going to host a national event in your region or community, it’s pretty exciting to be part of that,” co-chair of the host organizing committee and community services/event manager for the City of Morden Clare Agnew said.
The championship takes place every year (except when the Canada Winter Games take place) and will feature eight provincial teams. The event is higher calibre than the Esso Cup that Morden hosted in 2017, as players have to try out for the teams that will be playing.
Both communities are no stranger to hosting large sporting events. Winkler and Morden co-hosted the Manitoba Games in 2014, and Winkler has hosted both the Scotties and Viterra Championship in the past.
“It’s definitely another opportunity for us to work together as partners,” co-chair of the host organizing committee and recreation programmer for the City of Winkler Jordan Driedger said. “I think it’s a great way to showcase your community, to show your community spirit, to bring people together. It shows the great volunteers that we have and the great sponsors and businesses we have.”
“The community seems to really get behind these types of events,” he added. “We anticipate the same for this one.”
Agnew said the national championship is a stepping stone for Team Canada and beyond. “When you look at the players that are on the Canada Olympic team, the majority of them have participated in this tournament,” she said. “You will be watching Canadian future Olympians. If they haven’t been at this tournament they probably won’t ever be at the Olympics.”
Agnew said it’s great to have the confidence of Hockey Canada. “We are considered [serious hosts] and we are on Hockey Canada’s radar now,” she said. “For them to come back a second time they are thinking about us.”
Driedger said it’s good to see the support for women’s hockey in the region. “Morden has a fairly long history of women’s hockey in their community, especially with the Pembina Valley Hawks,” he said. “Winkler is just starting now, Winkler Minor Hockey has started a women’s program here. We’ve had a number of successful women’s hockey players come out of our community. This is very exciting that we can promote women’s hockey and hopefully this helps grow that sport in our community.”
While Winkler and Morden have a friendly rivalry when it comes to sports, Agnew said that competition doesn’t translate off the ice. “When we play against each other we sure try to win, but we also in the sports world really do work together,” she said. “When we did the Manitoba Games we worked together. If one of us has trouble with our zamboni and has an important game, the other community has lent their zamboni. When Winkler had problems with their ice, there was no question that we were going to help them. In the sports world, our two organizations work well together.”
“There’s that friendly neighbourly rivalry but I think working together makes us stronger,” Driedger agreed. “Together we’ll be able to host a very good event.”
Once the new year hits, organizing will kick off. The game will feature two pools of four teams playing 18 games. The sponsorship drive will start in January and both Agnew and Driedger said planning will take place quite quickly.
The event usually brings in around $1.5 million for the host community. “Quite often people don’t even think about the economic impact on the community,” Agnew said. “That’s something that will happen in our region because of the event but isn’t the focus of why we’re putting it on. It’s certainly a welcomed bonus.”