By Jon Brazeau
December may be cold, but Canadian Multicultural Hockey (CMHL) Inc. is looking to heat up arenas with the third annual Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championships.Over 30 teams are expected to participate in the mens and womens tournaments, taking place from Dec. 27 to 30, making this years championships bigger than ever.
As in 2005 and 2006, Canadian Ethnic Media Associaton (CEMA) is one of the sponsorsof the league.
Also for the first time, all games will be played across Toronto at four different arenas:
North York Centennial (Herb Carnegie) – (North End),
Weston Lions Arena (West End),
Scarborough Centennial (East End), and
Ted Reeve Arena (South End).
An estimated 15,000 combined spectators witnessed last years tournament.
Those who cannot reach the rinks will also be able to listen online this year as the games will be broadcasted over the Internet or on XM Satellite Radio.
Before, all the games were only in Scarborough so we wanted to spread them out across the city, said Tim Fujita, Head of Community Relations for the CMHL. Weve also split the teams into two divisions, east and west, so they will play their games closer to their respective communities.
The league has also introduced the True North Division, which acts as a second tier for less developed teams to participate in. The division was given a successful test-run in April and will now be an part of the December tournament.
Nobody likes 14-0 scores, not the losing team or the winning team, Fujita said. We created the True North Division to include communities who can put a team together but are hesitant to compete against the stronger teams.
The Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championships was created in 2005 as a non-contact hockey league for players who are 19-plus, Canadian citizens and have played some form of elite hockey (junior, semi-professional or professional).
Its about bringing the traditional sport to the non-traditional communities, Fujita said. It helps create role models and gets communities involved and share what its like being Canadian.
The players compete for a good cause as a $5,000 cheque will be presented to the charity or charities chosen by the winning teams.
The Irish Shamrocks claimed the first mens division title in 2005 and successfully defended their title in 2006. Last year was also the inaugural year for the womens division, with the Ojibwe Northern Storm claiming the first womens championship.
Despite having so many teams involved in this years campaign, Fujita said its not hard to put it all together. Support from the communities, partners and sponsors have not been hard to come by and those involved feel a sense of pride too.
Its great to be involved in something multicultural and hockey brings the communities together, said Tom Michalopoulos, President and CEO of Coffee Time and 241 Pizza.
Becoming a part of a growing multicultural league is why Centennial College became involved too.
Centennial College is closely associated with diversity, said Prafulla Prabhu, Senior Manager, Marketing at Centennial College. The college is proud to be a partner with the Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championships because it serves similar needs and helps communities.
I am proud that from the outset, two years ago, that CEMA has been so closely associated with the CMHL, said president Ben Viccari. Hockey is more than our national sport; it is part of Canadian culture and as such so many teams taking part in the league once again proves that the Canadian identity is deeply rooted in its diversity.
With more teams involved this year, the CMHL hopes to set a new record while gathering Canadians together to celebrate Canadas game.
More information on the Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championships can be found at www.cmhl.ca.