Members of the Airdrie Stars Hockey Academy will be hoping the odds are ever in their favour this weekend, when they compete in the local organization's annual Hunger Games tournament.
However, the players need not worry about their lives being in danger, for these are not the Hunger Games that author Suzanne Collins wrote about.
Rather, the local Hunger Games will be a two-weekend hockey tournament put on by the Airdrie Stars, who will be welcoming teams from across western Canada and even some northern parts of the United States.
Airdrie Stars president Jonah Cimolini said the tournament's moniker is due to the fact the Airdrie Food Bank is the beneficiary of the event's proceeds.
“The Hunger Games, we started it quite a while ago – I can’t remember how many years it was,” he said. “It’s at least six or seven years now. We started it as a local tournament for our Airdrie Stars hockey teams.
“At that time, we wanted to do something good for the community, so chose the food bank and based it on the idea of supporting the community but also having a quality tournament for Alberta.”
According to Cimolini, the Hunger Games tournament has grown so much since its inception that it now needs to be hosted in multiple communities. This year's iteration will be co-hosted between Airdrie and Cochrane, whereas last year's version also saw some games played in south Calgary.
“Last year we spread it out to south Calgary and Cochrane, [but] it was a bit too much to handle,” he said.
The Airdrie Stars have been in operation since 2017, catering to players between the AA and AAA levels in Airdrie and surrounding communities, including Olds, Acme, Drumheller, and Cremona. Cimolini referred to the private hockey academy as an alternative path to player development in minor hockey.
“We’re an independent program, so we’re not governed by Hockey Canada or Hockey Alberta,” he noted. “We’re kind of like the BCHL now, so the outlaw league.”
The Hunger Games will run across two weekends this month, including May 12 to 14 and May 26 to 28.
There will be approximately 100 youth hockey teams competing over the two weekends, across a variety of age divisions and skill levels.
Accommodating the many teams and players requires some scheduling and logistical gymnastics, according to Cimolini. That's because ice time in Airdrie is hard to come by at this time of year, considering the ice in some of the city's arenas has been melted to accommodate other sports, like box lacrosse.
“We could only get three rinks for this weekend, so we had to spread it out,” he said.
Even though the official minor hockey season tends to wrap up in March, Cimolini said springtime hockey has becom more and more popular in recent years, and in many ways, has come to take on a life of its own.
“Some people consider spring hockey more important than winter hockey,” he said. “Friends get together. The top-end kids can play together without going to tryouts and getting split up. It offers something different.”
For schedules and more information on the Airdrie Stars or Hunger Games tournament, visit hungergames.airdriestars.ca