Ice capades

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

The next guy who says he's just trying to survive winter 'without hockey' deserves a Gordie Howe elbow to the chops. Or, at the very least, should receive a tape-to-tape pass with a schedule of upcoming events.

There's enough puck chasing lined up to warm the hearts of local hockey fans until it's time to find the lawnmower next spring.

Although the NHL season is likely finished without the game's best players ever breaking a sweat, there's no end to other hockey events to occupy our long, cold winter nights.

Calgary is buried under competitive hockey with an annual Christmas present -- the 27th Mac's Midget Tournament -- set for unwrapping on Boxing Day.

"We certainly do offer a very good alternative to those people wanting to watch hockey," said Mac's Tournament chairman Neil Robertson.

"If your brand of hockey is NHL, we may not fit your bill but we do certainly fit the brand of entertaining, fast-paced, competitive hockey most people enjoy.

"We're very affordable but what we don't provide is for the armchair fan to watch from home. You have to come into the rink and enjoy the total experience."

At nine bucks for an adult day pass to the Mac's, affordable is an understatement.

Testament to hockey's continual growth and support is the addition to the Mac's tourney of a 12-team female division, expanding the total tournament package to more clubs than ever before.

"We're going to bring together 37 teams over the course of the week, they're all great teams and they will be fun to watch," said Robertson, in his 12th year of involvement in the international hockey tradition.

"Over the course of the week, the entertainment value will be very high. The competition will be great.

"Where else do you get to see top male and female athletes play the game of hockey in one city at one time?"

For those preferring to cheer from the comfort of their couches, the annual world junior championship will also fill the holiday season, with Canada chasing its first gold medal in eight years. TSN will bring eight round-robin games right into your living room starting Christmas Day, including all of Canada's contests, before covering playoff and medal rounds.

There's also the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, which Canada enters as the two-time defending champs. They open Boxing Day against the Russian club Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Locally, the AJHL's Calgary Royals and Canucks, along with the WHL Hitmen, will barely rest long enough to digest their holiday turkey before heading back onto the ice.

Earlier this week, Calgary Flames legend Lanny McDonald pointed out how fans are still buried to their upper lips in hockey games despite the distasteful NHL lockout.

On hand at the press conference to drum up support for the ninth annual Esso 3-on-3 Pond Hockey Tournament, McDonald said he regrets the NHL's current plight but is sometimes too busy to notice.

"We played a great alumni game last Friday that helped make a difference for a lot of people at the Mustard Seed (charity), a lot of us also coach minor hockey too, so there's lots of hockey going on, it's just a different kind of hockey," said McDonald, a 500-goalscorer over 16 NHL seasons who will suit up for the Flames alumni squad Jan. 22 at the Stampede Corral.

"Obviously, as former players we'd all love to see the (NHL) game start up again and get it out of the board room and back on the ice but until then..."

Until then, we have more than enough hockey to occupy our winter nights.


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