By Sean Rooney on November 7, 2018.
There are 16 teams confirmed for the 46th Hockey Hounds Major Bantam Tournament, but organizers have reached out to one special member of a 17th in hopes he can make an appearance.
Layne Matechuk, who survived the Humboldt Broncos bus disaster and spent months in a coma, could be in Medicine Hat when the bantam AAA event begins Nov. 15.
Hounds president George Hamel confirmed the invitation, noting it all depends on how Matechuk is doing health-wise. The 18-year-old defenceman suffered serious brain injuries in the April 6 crash and was only released from hospital last month.
“If he’s feeling up to it he might be dropping the puck,” said Hamel, noting the Hounds donated $1,000 to the Broncos this summer.
Matechuk, a defenceman, was a second-round draft pick by the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2015.
If he does visit, he’ll be the biggest name at an event with many who can be expected to make big names for themselves. At least 27 alumni of the Hounds tournament have gone on to play in the NHL, and hundreds have made the jump to major-junior. Some of the notable NHLers include Jarome Iginla, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Matthew Barzal
The Vancouver-based St. George’s Academy will return to defend its title from 2017 and kicks off the weekend against Prince Albert. Fellow finalist Sherwood Park isn’t back, but new teams from Manitoba and Saskatchewan have filled out the lineup along with regulars like Pursuit of Excellence from Kelowna and Calgary’s Edge academy.
The host South East Athletic Club Tigers open against one of those new teams, Martensville, at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Kinplex.
Planning for the huge event started months ago.
“We start in June basically, is when we start,” said Hamel, who’s in his second year leading the tournament committee. “We have to book the ice early, we book all three rinks (Kinplex, Hounds and Moose). Three hundred and fifty-some rooms we have to book.”
All that hard work is worth it, though. Hamel notes every WHL team sends scouts. Hundreds of players, parents and coaches come to the city, some for the first time.
The tournament final is set for Nov. 18 at 12:30 p.m. at the Kinplex.
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