Tyler Spurgeon remembers stepping on the ice and skating through the shadows at the Brick Invitational Novice Hockey Tournament.
It was one of his first thrills as a hockey player.
"It was definitely very exciting," Spurgeon said. "Growing up in Edmonton, I had an opportunity to watch the tournament a couple of years before I had a chance to play in it.
"The setting of the mall, and knowing that there were teams from the U.S. and they were the best players from those areas, it was very, very exciting."
BACK AT THE MALL
Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers prospect was back at West Edmonton Mall, and will be taking part in the tournament again, this time as an assistant coach with Alberta Team Brick.
This year's edition of the elite hockey tournament for nine and 10 year olds runs from July 4th to 8th at West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace.
And just like it was for Spurgeon when he played 10 years ago, it'll be the highest-calibre tournament these players have so far ever been a part of.
"We never really played in a rink of this size and it was an opportunity to play in front of a lot of people because a lot of people would come out and watch," Spurgeon said. "It's great for the kids. It's something that they can look at as an experience that's going to help them grow as a person and as a player."
The 18th edition of the tournament once again features 12 teams. Along with the host Team Brick, the event includes teams from five different provinces and from the United States.
Team Brick is in a pool with teams from Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal and Los Angeles.
"We have a skilled team that's also a very hard-working team that play well as a group," said Team Brick head coach Eric Morrissette. "I think we can expect them to come out, compete very hard and be very competitive."
The hosts are made up from players from across the province. The process of selecting the team started in December with over 100 players vying for a spot on the squad. The team was picked in the beginning of April and they've already played in three tournaments.
"Our mandate is to have the best team possible," Morrissette said. "Until we feel we've got that, we continue to be selective."
FOURTH OF JULY
Team Brick opens the tournament on July 4th against a team from Los Angeles.
"Some of these players have been watching this tournament for three or four years and have wanted to be part of it," Morrissette said. "It's been more so for the players that are from around Edmonton. But with us having success last year and now having a contingent from Calgary, the people in Calgary have made a huge commitment to be a part of this."
This year's team features four players from Calgary including captain Joey Gatenby, 10, a fourth grader out of John Castello Catholic School.
"It's going to be really cool to look up and see all the people cheering us on," Gatenby said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. I've never played in the mall. We've only had one practice here. I think it's going to be really exciting here just being in the mall."
Along with the tournament, participating players will also get to experience the attractions of the mall. That includes a trip to Galaxyland and an afternoon in the waterpark.
"The whole idea of this summer tournament is for the kids to have fun," said tournament director Andy Wigston. "We don't want them to come here and just think about nothing but hockey. Those are the kind of things that make it a lot more fun for them. I think that's the draw of this tournament.
"It's just a unique venue and it's a unique opportunity to play for the Brick Cup that's becoming well known throughout North America."