The Gloucester Rangers Atom AA team must have been an excited group of kids and parents. The Canadian ritual of travelling to attend a hockey tournament, replete with noisy hotel rooms, noisy restaurants, and noisier arenas had finally arrived, and off they embarked on the 5 hour journey to Guelph. The same was no doubt true for their opponent on this Saturday morning, the Kent Cobras, albeit their commute was a mere 2 hours. The venue to host the showdown? Guelphs Exhibition Arena, which looks as old and decrepit today as it did when I was a kid playing there 45 years ago.
To compound what is already an embarrassing situation, the lack of ice pads in the city required game times for the Guelph Minor Hockey Associations PowerPlay tournament be reduced to a paltry 30 minutes. This I can only imagine caused the poor volunteers charged with welcoming visitors to the Royal City even more grief. Or perhaps it was a silver lining: We apologize that you have to play here, but the good news is well have you out in 30 minutes!
To add some perspective to the scenario, such a welcome is akin to inviting your friends from Ottawa to Thanksgiving dinner, offering them a plate of Kraft Dinner, and pulling the plate away before they can finish eating. Unfortunately, the reality is even worse. Hockey tournaments are an opportunity for local associations to earn money for their budget. We charged handsomely for the privilege of a 30 minute game at the Ex.
In fact, the ice pad shortage is so acute in Guelph that almost 50 of the tournament games were hosted by either Cambridge or Fergus. Gratefully, it should be noted that efforts are being made to plan and promote the need for additional recreational facilities in Guelph with the creation of a new South End Rec Centre. These plans cannot come to fruition quickly enough. Sporting tournaments are a financial boon for local businesses. Restaurants and hotels cash in on these events. More importantly, they are an opportunity to open the doors to our community and make an impression on our neighbours.
More importantly, they are an opportunity to open the doors to our community and make an impression on our neighbours.
No doubt, the good folks that actually ran the tournament made an excellent impression, but unfortunately the state of our facilities, or lack of them, cannot overcome the goodwill of our volunteers. A likely natural conclusion from the first impression would be Boy, Guelph must have really low property taxes! Once that conclusion has been proven to be erroneous, a reasonable secondary conclusion would be that Guelph has decided upon a different set of civic priorities than that of virtually every other Ontario community. With that in mind, we can only hope that folks from Gloucester, Kent, and everywhere in between, made note of our bike lanes and may still add Guelph to their summer travel plans.
Metaphorically, a community hosting a tournament is a little like inviting your friends over to dinner to show off your new house. Typically you make an effort to clean up, make the beds, and get out your finest China. If you have to drag out the paper plates, some of which you borrowed from your neighbour, the impression you make may not be the one you had intended.
Thanks for reading,