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SPORTS SCENE: Jubilant banquet kicks off World Junior A Challenge

Campbellton Tigers Francis Thibeault, left, Nick Sharpe, Dave Ritcey and Logan Johnston of Edmundston Blizzard.
Campbellton Tigers Francis Thibeault, left, Nick Sharpe, Dave Ritcey and Logan Johnston of Edmundston Blizzard.

TRURO, N.S. – In a near-perfect setting Thursday night at the Rath-Eastlink Community

Centre, the I Am Canadian kickoff event preceded the World Junior A

Challenge.

With a large number in attendance I Am Canadian icon Jeff Douglas opened things with one of his patented rants. Douglas, from Truro, co-host of CBC Radio’s As It Happens, did a great job keeping the audience entertained during the evening as master of ceremonies.

Truro’s Arash Madani, the outstanding sportscaster with Sportsnet, once a reporter with the Truro Daily News, returned home to be keynote speaker. Madani seemed to hold the audience in his hand as he revisited big league locker rooms and playing fields, sharing baseball and hockey interviews and

colourful behind-the-scenes stories.

To the credit of Dave Ritcey, the host committee chairman, Tanya Colbourne and the other organizers, retaining Madani, serving the great dinner and putting together the brilliant program, it made for a very memorable night.

We’ll return to the eventful occasion, but with hockey, on the heels of Rogers Hometown Hockey visiting Truro last month, the World Junior A Challenge begins play Sunday afternoon at the RECC.

The six-team international event (Dec. 10-16) features Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, USA, Canada West and Canada East. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Canada West plays Czech Republic. Russia goes against Canada East at 7:30 p.m., Czech Republic meets U.S.A. at 3.30 p.m. Monday and at 7:30 p.m Canada East face Switzerland. Play continues daily leading up to the gold-medal game Saturday afternoon, Dec. 16.

“This is a great event, we’re excited to be able to showcase our community and facility to the world,” said Dave Ritcey, past president and now chairman of the board of the Maritime Hockey League and former head coach of the 2013 and 2005 Atlantic Canada world under 17 challenge teams.

The World Junior A Challenge has produced NHL players such as Zach Hyman (Toronto Maple Leafs), Tyson Jost (Colorado Avalanche), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues) and Kyle Turris (Nashville Predators).

Ritcey said there will be 160 scouts in attendance during the week and the talent and level of play will be outstanding.

Jed Ritcey, Dave’s father, was paid tribute to in an outstanding way during Thursday night’s banquet. The startup of the Jed Ritcey Legacy Fund touched many in attendance.

“Jed was a modest man and always believed in giving back to the community,” Dave said. “It’s wonderful to know the legacy in Jed’s memory will provide funding support to local, grassroots development, future event hosting and capital upgrades to facilities in Colchester County.”

Dave also praised the more than 120 local volunteers who have stepped up to help with the upcoming junior A challenge.

Nick Sharpe is the director of partnerships & events for the RECC and chairman of Events Truro Colchester, a committee working to attract and secure major events to the Truro area.

“Hosting this challenge is a big deal for Truro and Colchester,” Sharpe said. “The economic impact is estimated to be in the millions. We get the opportunity on the international stage to show our pride in our local communities – we hope this world junior event will help grow the sport of hockey and help us in hosting future events. We aim to put our best foot forward in hosting a world-class event. We want to give all international teams a true Truro welcome.”

The players representing Canada West and Canada East were introduced Thursday night. From the Maritime Hockey League are forward Logan Johnston of Edmundston Blizzard and Francis Thibeault of the Campbellton Tigers.

Johnston, one of the league’s top scorers, has 10 goals and 20 assists.

“This is a big moment for sure – playing in the world junior A challenge,” Johnston, 19, of Fredericton, said. “This is one of the biggest honours I have had in my hockey career to date.”

Thibeault, who has played considerable major junior hockey, has three goals and six assists from his defence position.

“I’m thrilled, it’s an honour to be picked to represent the Maritime Hockey League,” Thibeault, 19 of Val d’ Amour, N.B., said. “There are a lot of good players in this tournament, it will be good hockey. To play against Russia, the Czech Republic and the U.S.A., it’s a big opportunity.”

Tickets to all games of the World Junior A Challenge are still available by contacting the RECC.

 

Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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