Young hockey players will feel like NHL stars this weekend in Red Deer at the eighth Tommy Gun’s Outdoor Winter Classic.
Eight teams, three from Red Deer and five from out of town, will play in the annual midget tournament at the Bower community rinks on Boyce Street Friday to Sunday.
“We just put this on for the love of the game and to give back to the community and these kids,” said Al Sim, tournament founder.
“These kids get to act like a pro hockey player for a weekend. They’re treated like pros where they come into the dressing room their jersey’s laid out and set up for them, there are live national anthems.”
Every year the tournament has a different theme for team jerseys. This year, all jerseys will be based off hockey movies. Attendees may recognize jerseys from films such as Slap Shot, The Mighty Ducks and Miracle.
Forty-seven teams applied for the five out-of-town spots, Sim said. The tournament has “grown like crazy” over its eight years, he added.
“The first year we were borrowing … and just finding anything we could to act as temporary dressing rooms. But over the years we’ve made some money so we’ve been able to build our own,” he said.
There are 15 structures – benches, dressing rooms and penalty boxes – set up for the tournament.
“It looks like there’s a festival – it’s a town with a town,” Sim said. “It has its own feel and all the structures kind of match the old wood look of the boards. It’s a lot of fun.”
The setup has gone smoothly this year, he said.
“Five of the past seven years we’ve battled plus temperatures, where ice was melting,” said Sim. “It’ll be a little chilly Friday night, but other than that we’re fully stocked and ready.”
For the first time, the tournament will feature a Heritage Jr. B league game between the Red Deer Vipers and Mountainview Colts Saturday at 9 p.m.
There will also be three Summit Series games for seven- and eight-year-old Red Deer Minor Hockey players – one Friday and two Saturday.
There will be live music Friday and Saturday too.
Hundreds are expected to come to the tournament throughout the weekend.
Sim said the event wouldn’t be doable without the support of the three Red Deer teams, their families and the volunteers.
For the full tournament schedule, visit www.tommygunswinterclassic.com.