Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s men’s hockey championship, the University Cup, is rapidly approaching, and organizers in Halifax want everyone to know that there’ll be just as much to do off the ice as on it.
Attractions will include the Hockey Canada Century Tour, an interactive experience celebrating 100 years of hockey where attendees can try green screen hockey shootouts, video games, and even a synthetic ice surface. Each team’s designated “hockey house” pub will get fans out and exploring Halifax’s nightlife.
Derek Martin, CIS University Cup Organizing Committee Chair, said that off-ice events for visitors are a key factor of the tournament.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working on the entertainment value outside the rink with this event,” he said. “From the Hockey Canada Century Tour exhibit that will be set up in the Grand Parade all week to the hockey health symposium designed for parents, coaches and health professionals. We’ve attempted to build a celebration of hockey.”
The “hockey house” drinking venues are certainly one of the main draws, providing a place for visiting fans to cheer on their team in a friendly, boozy atmosphere. The UNB Varsity Reds’ hockey house will be located at the Stubborn Goat Gastropub on Grafton Street. Acadia and StFX will also have their own venues while Cheers will serve as a general hockey house for all CIS fans.
“One of Halifax’s strengths as an event host is the location of Scotiabank Centre in the heart of downtown, a short walk to multiple hotels, restaurants and bars,” said Martin. “University sports provide a unique opportunity for people to gather together around a shared experience or memory and we wanted to give everyone the best forum to do that.”
Gardiner MacDougall, head coach of the Varsity Reds men’s hockey team, believes that Halifax will do an exceptional job as host city.
“I think the people of the area will endorse it,” he said. “They have three AUS teams representing our conference — which I think is an added bonus — and I think there will be plenty of fans from all three [schools].”
The Aitken Centre was packed for most games when UNB last hosted the tournament in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Saskatoon set a University Cup attendance record and had over 8,000 fans in the building for some games. While ticket sales for this year’s tournament have been robust so far, Martin said that attracting young, hockey-loving families to the tournament is key.
“The university hockey product is a terrific brand of hockey but it suffers from a lack of exposure,” he said. “We really hope this national championship can help raise its profile and attract loyal fans. I am proud of the work our team of staff and volunteers have put in to make this championship about much more than just the great action fans will see on the ice.”
The University Cup begins on Thursday with quarterfinal action and ends on Sunday with the bronze medal and championship games.