South Florida’s sunshine and warm temperatures played a big role in drawing international hockey talent to the annual Sun Cup Hockey Tournament in Pompano Beach, according to Hockey International President Alain Caron. The 33rd edition of the tournament recently came to the Glacier Ice and Snow Arena in Pomano Beach, along with teams from Canada, the United States, Russia and Sweden.
A total of 16 teams competed in four different brackets based on age and ability.
In the top International Division it was an all-Canadian final as La Brique of Levis displayed a high scoring offense in a dominant 8-1 victory over Toitures Moses of Val D’Or.
La Brique’s Vincent LaBelle scored two goals and had three assists to lead the offense, while goaltender Sebastian Blais held Toitures scoreless until the final minute in the 8-1 victory. Pompano Beach resident Brandon Velicky scored the last minute goal for Toitures and did double duty by playing for both Toitures and Coral Springs All Stars in the semifinals and finals. The 20-year-old former Cardinal Gibbons hockey player was impressed with the talent level he faced.
“One of the teams was short on players so I played four games in a row so my legs feel like jello,” Velicky said. “The guys’ skill level here is very high and with the competition this good you have to work harder. The team from Quebec [La Brique] was real solid and they didn’t have any weaknesses. This tournament is great and the competition is so much better than the adult leagues down here. It was awesome and a lot of fun.”
Hockey International President Alain Caron’s company specializes in men’s and women’s hockey with worldwide tournaments in Russia, Europe, Canada and the United States. The Sun Cup started in 1981 in Pompano Beach and the venue continues to be a popular destination.
“At that time people didn’t believe you could play ice hockey in South Florida,” Caron laughed. “The international players love this Pompano facility because it’s close to the beach. The tour in Florida is where it all started and now we have tournaments in Germany, Las Vegas, Mexico, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, Russia and Sweden. Our International Division has a lot of former [National Hockey League] and professional Russian and European players come over to play.”
In the Continental Division, an all-American final saw Woodie Surf Lodge Cuba defeat the Coral Springs All Stars 10-3 to clinch the team’s first ever Continental Championship.
The one constant for Woodie’s has been the presence of General Manager and player George Kangas, who is 61-years-old and has been with the team since its inception.
“This is our 30th anniversary and every year we try and compete against the Europeans, Russians and the Canadians with our local players,” Kangas said. “We have won the 35+ division before, but this is the first time winning the Continental Cup. We have four players on our club who have been drafted to play college hockey and combined with our more experienced players we average about 35 years of age. I’m the only one left from the beginning running the club and it has been a great undertaking to win in a very competitive division.”
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