AHAI, the Chicago Blackhawks and USA Hockey hosted a three-division, 8U cross-ice tournament at the United Center on Dec. 28. Twenty-four teams comprised of nearly 330 mites participated in the event and, after three games, the bracket winners advanced to a final championship game. Games were very competitive, with 20 of the 36 contests decided by three goals or fewer. More than 2,500 people were in attendance, soaking in the Madhouse environment and making it a great day for youth hockey.
When the dust settled, three champions emerged: the Joliet Jaguars (Kane Division), the All-ADM AHAI Chicago Mission (Toews Division) and the Chicago River Dogs (Keith Division). As part of their cheerful plunder, the champions received Blackhawks Winter Classic knit hats and medals. Click here to see the champions' photos, courtesy of AHAI.
"It's a great example of how cross-ice hockey can be fun while also being highly competitive and developmental," said AHAI's Jim Clare. "In all three rinks, scores were close and the competition amped up as they all wanted to be playing in that final game. The parents were cheering and the smiles on the kids' faces made it all worthwhile.
"Success, at this age level, is measured in fun and skill development. Cross-ice hockey and small-area games are all about fun and skill development. I think today proved that."
All participants received a Blackhawks and AHAI gift bag, a tour of the Chicago locker room, access to a video game semi-truck parked outside the United Center and more in what was a carnival-like atmosphere. Before the event kicked off, the participants and their families had the opportunity to watch a Blackhawks practice from rinkside, during which several small-area games were put to good use by Kane and company.
"It was definitely a special day, made even more special by the amazing families, coaches and staff of the participating teams, as well as the volunteers," said Clare. "There are many opportunities for things to go wrong when you have 300-plus mites playing 39 games in seven hours, but the cooperation between everybody, including the skaters, made the day a smashing success."