AMHERST – The 2019 Fred Page Cup is a year away, but members of the Amherst host committee got a leg up in its preparation by attending this year’s edition of the championship in Ottawa last week.
“It was a great exercise for the host committee to be able to work alongside members of the Ottawa host committee,” Amherst host committee chair Bill Schurman said. “Overall we were very pleased with the tournament and the quality of the information we received.”
Schurman was joined by Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers president Gary Brown and coach and GM Jeff LeBlanc as well as Amherst Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie and Ramblers’ board member Kim Campbell.
Christie, along with representing the town, is also chair of the volunteer committee for the 2019 Fred Page Cup while Campbell is also a member of the volunteer committee – a group that’s going to be among the busiest in the coming months recruiting people to help out during the tournament next May at the Amherst Stadium.
“It was a very long few days. We’d arrive there in the morning at 10 or 11 and wouldn’t leave until 10 or 11 that night,” he said. “It was worth it because we made a lot of contacts.”
It also learned a lot about the man the Eastern Canadian Junior A Hockey Championship is named after. It’s something Schurman and his committee members were asked a lot during the tournament and it’s information it will ensure is in the program next year.
Also, during next year’s tournament, Amherst organizers want to honour some of the people who built the Maritime Junior Hockey League.
“We were also able to learn a lot from a facility perspective in operating a tournament like this and the Ottawa Recreation Department was great to share with us what facility requirements were and how they staged the dressing rooms, media access and other things,” Schurman said.
Schurman said the host committee staffed a booth it established near the main entrance to the Jim Durrell complex and spent hours working with Ottawa host committee members.
“We couldn’t be happier with the number of people we met and the number of Nova Scotians who were living away but came to the booth to say hi and ask if we knew this person or that person,” Schurman said.
Having the host of the 2019 tournament on hand at the 2018 event gives the championship credibility and is something that’s expected by Hockey Canada. It also helps further open the lines of communication with officials from the various leagues that send teams to the Fred Page Cup and works to put Amherst on the map for hockey fans considering attending the tournament a year from now.
While most of the activities at this year’s tournament were for the most part confined to the arena, Schurman said Amherst 2019 will be like a community festival with numerous events across Cumberland County.
“We want to involve the entire community so it’s more of a festival,” Schurman said.
He said the committee is looking forward to launching its volunteer recruitment drive and it’s planning for its Fred Page countdown on Jan. 1.
“We’ll be meeting all summer as a committee and hopefully by fall we’ll be ready to kick preparations into high gear so we can have one of the best Fred Page Cup tournaments that’s been held,” he said. “We’re confident of where we are as a committee at this particular time. We’re in pretty good shape. There are a few things that we have to work on, but we’re well on our way.”
The committee is also planning to meet with other community stakeholders about events they can host next year in Amherst and Cumberland County.
“The host committee estimated there were probably 300 to 400 people that came to the tournament in Ottawa from outside town,” he said. “We’re expecting close to 500 people from out of town based on who might be in the tournament.”
Schurman said it was interesting that he received a lot of enquiries about Amherst’s no-fee ice project. He said a number of minor hockey associations in the Ottawa area approached him about the project, how it works and how successful it has been.