On Wednesday, Lu Kong and 29 of his BWC Bruins hockey players, coaches and parents boarded a flight from Seattle to Colorado Springs, hoping to becoming the champions of their under-18 division.
The 15 youths that make up the Burnaby (British Columbia) Winter Club Bruins are only a fraction of the 1,400 hockey players skating in the 36 Annual President’s Day Hockey Tournament that started Friday and ends Monday. Only about 200 of the tournament’s players live within a 30-mile radius of the city. The rest — players, plus coaches and family members — came from 11 states, including Colorado, and Manitoba and British Columbia, Canada. They checked into hotel rooms, continue to eat at restaurants, drive rental cars and buy memorabilia. In the end, players and their entourages are expected to spend an estimated $1.5 million in the area, said Chelsy Murphy, director of communications for the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“To have an event of this size in February, during the slower tourist season, is very beneficial to the community,” she said.
Hockey players ages 8 through 18 are competing in multiple games being played at the World Arena Ice Hall, World Arena Main, Colorado College’s Honnen Arena, Cadet Ice Arena at the Air Force Academy, Sertich Ice Center in Memorial Park and Colorado Sports Center in Monument. All games are free and open to the public.
“The teams that travel for this tournament are very serious about their hockey,” said Mike Pipkins, tournament adviser, “and they know these will be hard fought games.”
Burnaby is a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. Kong’s team drove two hours to Seattle to catch their flight to the Springs. Kong said it will cost his team members about $900 each to play in this year’s tournament after fees, airplane tickets, hotels and other expenses. That does not include food or souvenirs. Kong said his team’s hotel rooms cost around $100 each night.
“And we (came) in one day early to get used to the air and to practice,” he said.
A total of 60 teams rented 3,400 hotel nights during last year’s tournament, according to “pick up” reports from area hotels compiled by the Conventions and Visitors Bureau. The report does not include those guests who did not tell hotel clerks they were in town for the tournament. The city collects both a sales and hotel tax totaling 4.5 percent on each room rental, according to an e-mail from Karen Garcia, sales tax manager, City of Colorado Springs.
The tournament also helps control costs for local hockey leagues. Each team pays a $1,350 registration fee to play in the President’s Day Tournament, Pipkins said. The money goes to the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association, which operates the tournament. The association also receives additional income from hotel commissions, memorabilia and apparel sales, Pipkins said. The money goes toward annual rink rentals and other local expenses. Last year’s tournament earned the association around $30,000, he said.
“This year we will do better because we will have (27) more teams,” he said.
Pipkins got involved with the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association 12 years ago when his son, Matt, started playing hockey. Matt, now 21, continues to play in area adult leagues and works at the rink in Monument. Pipkins’ daughter, Nicki, also played hockey from 12 to 19. She is this year’s tournament director. His wife, Dana Pipkins also is a tournament adviser.
“All the practices and all the tournaments, it really brought us closer,” Pipkins said, “and I like seeing those relationships in the other families.”
This year marks Kong’s second trip to the President’s Day tournament. The Canadian coach’s first was four years ago when his son played in the Pee Wee league. He said they are returning to the President’s Day Tournament because it is one of the nation’s best run amateur hockey events.
“We have had a good experience in the past and word gets around,” he said, “and we felt this is a better tournament over all.”
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.