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MORRISBURG – One of the signature end-of-season hockey showcases in the region will be taking a road trip to Morrisburg next month. The Leo Boivin Midget AAA Showcase tournament is moving from its home in Prescott to the Morrisburg Arena and kicks off the festivities March 20th.
The tournament, in its 47th year, is named after NHL hall-of-famer, and Prescott-native, Leo Boivin, who played for six NHL teams, most notably the Boston Bruins, from 1951 to 1970. The Leo, as the tournament is nicknamed, highlights top-level Midget AAA hockey teams. In past years, teams from as far away as Riga, Latvia have competed at The Leo.
Moving the tournament was not an easy decision, but a necessary one for organizers.
The Leo Boivin Community Centre failed an inspection of its floor-cooling plant, which was the same type and vintage as the plant used by an arena in Fernie BC. In October 2017, three people died from an ammonia leak at the arena.
Since the closure of the arena in Prescott, area clubs have had some challenges finding ice time in the area, which led to the organizers looking at taking The Leo on the road, to Morrisburg.
“The news that our beloved arena would be closed was a devastating blow to our town and surrounding villages,” said tournament chair Vicki Sargeant. “The Leo Showcase Committee has continued to promote our tournament and plan for an alternate host community this year, moving forward, until we can bring it back to Prescott.”
She said the organizing committee was determined to have the 16-team tournament continue.
“The tournament is very individualized. We wanted it to go somewhere nearby that was similar to Prescott. Somewhere with the same sort of feel.”
Sargeant said the organizers felt that Morrisburg was the best place for the tournament, announcing the move last fall.
“The Municipality of South Dundas and the people in Morrisburg have been very helpful,” Sargeant said.
While the venue and town may be different, the showcase itself is continuing with all of its usual events.
Kicking off the event on March 20th will be the 4th annual Leo Boivin Ottawa Senators Alumni Classic Game. That game will feature Senators Alumni taking on a combined team of South Grenville, and South Dundas, minor hockey coaches. Leo Boivin himself will be behind the bench as head coach of the coaches team.
“We don’t know who will be playing for the Senators Alumni team yet,” she said.
Opening the Alumni game will be an exhibition game between the South Grenville Rangers and South Dundas Lions initiation-level hockey players.
The formal tournament starts Thursday evening, March 21st. Then beginning at 9 a.m. March 22nd, non-stop hockey tournament action will fill the Morrisburg Arena.
For the past two years, Nova Scotia-based Newbridge Academy U16 have won the tournament. Sargeant confirmed that team will return vying for a three-peat.
The tournament will close out with four final games, starting in the afternoon on March 24th.
For the teams entered, the opportunities for scouting are an important part of the tournament.
“There will be scouts from higher levels of hockey,” Sargeant said. In past tournaments, scouts from the CCHL, collegiate hockey, and the OHL have been in attendance.
Some of the traditions from the tournament will travel down the road to Morrisburg too including the opening ceremonies, a skills competition, and a final flood.
Off ice, traditions like the team monitors and awarding three-stars for each game will continue. The team monitor program assigns a second-year Peewee-level player to each of the 16 teams.
“The Peewee players really become part of the team they are assigned to,” Sargeant said. “The players usually even have a jersey for them. It’s a really special part of the spirit of the tournament.”
Also coming to the Morrisburg Arena will be the infamous fan group “The Row”. No stranger to Morrisburg this season with the arena hosting some of the South Grenville Rangers’ Junior C home games this season, they will make a boisterous addition to the festivities.
“Much planning has taken place to ensure that the teams, and fans see all their favourite aspects of this special event,” Sargeant said.
To accommodate the expected crowds, additional bleachers will be added to areas of the arena.
The Leo Boivin Tournament runs at the Morrisburg Arena beginning March 20th until March 24th.
A tournament weekend pass is $20, daily passes will be available for $8 per day. Children and senior rates will be available. Admission to the Senators alumni game is $5.