Atoms score silver in huge tourney

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, FREE PRESS SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Hockey was the focus, but for a group of nine-year-olds from the London Junior Knights AA minor atom gold team, this tournament turned out to be much more.

But then, what can you expect from a tournament that will make it into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest minor hockey tournament ever held?

And to make things even better, the Junior Knights came away with a silver medal from their 16-team division.

The Junior Knights lost to the Florida Junior Panthers 5-2 in the final of the AA event in the Bell Capital Cup held in Ottawa. The event, organized by the Ottawa Minor Hockey Association over the Christmas and New Year's break, featured 510 teams competing in various atom and peewee level divisions.

More than 90 of those teams came from the United States. The Czech Republic, China, Finland, France, Russia and Italy were some of the other countries represented.

"It was great for the kids. They got a chance to talk to kids from all over the world," said coach Darrel Elver. "Pin trading was huge. The kids traded them. We went down with a limited supply and our team was coined out the first day, first day and a half. The London Junior Knights pins were a huge commodity, but we didn't have any more to give out."

"I run a tournament with about 40 or 50 teams in London," said past president of the Junior Knights Joe O'Neill. "I can't imagine running a tournament with that many teams. I just couldn't do it. The logistics would be incredible."

Elver said it was a great accomplishment for his club to make it to the final. The Junior Panther team that beat the Junior Knights is a team that draws players from a large area. The gold Knights junior atoms are one of two minor atom AA teams in the Junior Knights organization.

"We had a tremendous game but just came up a little short. It was awesome for the kids," Elver said. "We were in the dressing room that the visiting NHL teams actually use. There were signatures from Wayne Gretzky and that type of thing."

Elver said the players were a little bug-eyed by the experience.

"We started a little slow in the first period. We went down and saw the Senators actually play the Islanders. Then, for the kids to be on that ice and looking up and seeing a place for 19,000 people to sit and the game being televised (on Rogers Television), it was a lot. It was a once in a lifetime experience," Elver said.


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