The City of Fort St. John's High on Ice Festival is just around the corner, which means so is the Crystal Cup Pond Hockey Challenge, which runs Feb. 7 to 10 on Charlie Lake.
In its third year, event organizer Neil Evans is hoping to get 40 teams registered for this year's tournament on Charlie Lake. Five of those will be women's teams, a new branch of the Crystal Cup for 2014.
"We like a nice round 40 number between the 35 and the five, and it makes scheduling a little easier on us to have five-team divisions," said Evans on Monday. "We are not completely restricting it to 35, if we get more interest we'll look at revamping the schedule to accommodate more teams, so it's not set.
"So far it's pretty early, we're about to start our advertising and letting people know. Word has gone around a little bit and some people are pretty excited."
Some of those people are female hockey players from Fort St. John and Dawson Creek who'll get to form teams this year and play for the Sapphire Cup. So far Dawson Creek might be sending two of the five female teams.
"Last year we realized there were a couple of women playing with some of the teams we had, and we thought it'd be a good idea to open up a side project called the Sapphire Cup," Evans said. "Five women's teams are going to be in their own division and they'll have their own cup they'll be going for, but it'll still be under the Crystal Cup umbrella."
Aside from the Sapphire Cup, there shouldn't be too many changes to the 3rd Annual Crystal Cup, Evans says. They still plan on having public skating rinks, a kids' area, food vendors and beverage gardens.
"Our goal this year is to make it really successful again," he said. "We intend on doing a gardens out there and we have a proposition to Mr. Mike's to host that this year, and hopefully that goes well. Bill Ranford will also be showing up, as he's part owner.
"We're just trying to perfect the format and everything we've done in the previous two years," he added. "I think once we get good at doing it at this size we want to slowly increase it. What we're trying to do is get good at what we're doing and get more consistent sponsors and consistent services."
Organizers would also like to see more teams attend from outside the area. Last year only a couple of teams were from out of town, and Evans hopes that this year the message gets out earlier so that more teams can make the trip for the three-day event.
"We're trying to get a bit more outside interest and get the word spread everywhere," he said.
"It'd be great to see teams from Dawson and Grande Prairie, or attract teams from Fort Nelson or even further than that. We'll have to see how it goes. If we get the word out far enough in advance we can get attraction from other areas."
Last year Vancouver Canucks alumnus Dave Babych made an appearance, and Evans is hoping to get another former NHL player up this time, possibly even Trevor Linden. Comedian Tim Nutt also came up last year to kick off the Crystal Cup at the Lido.
Organization for the 2014 event is still in the early stages, Evans said, so you never know what might happen. They will be looking for volunteers and sponsors for the event as well.
Registration for the 3rd Annual Crystal Cup opened Monday and will run until Jan. 30, 2014. More information on the event, as well as registration, can be found at www.thecrystalcup.ca or at the North Peace Leisure Pool.
© Copyright Alaska Highway News