For 40 years, the Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament has been bringing both female and male midget teams from around the globe to Calgary for seven days of competition.
Many young hockey players in Calgary grow up watching the tournament, waiting for and working towards their chance to play in the Mac’s.
Both Cooper Page and Zach Russell, forwards for the junior A Calgary Canucks, say they remember the tournament as one of their favourite hockey memories.
“It’s something you look forward to the whole year,” said Page, who played in the tournament with the Calgary North Stars during the 2014-2015 hockey season.
“Growing up as a kid watching, it was pretty special to play,” said Russell.
Russell played in the tournament during the 2015-2016 hockey season and won the tournament with the Calgary Flames.
“It was probably the best experience of my life,” Russell said.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so you’ve got to cherish the moment, and you’ve got to pretty much give everything you have because you only get one shot at it.”
The tournament provides lots of exposure to the midget players participating, not only to junior and college teams, but also some professional scouts.
“That’s when I played my best. I played one more year in midget and then I played junior, strictly because of how well I played in the Mac’s Tournament,” said Page
The tournament kicks off on Dec. 26 every year while Calgary plays host to 25 male midget AAA teams, and 15 female midget AAA teams.
The games will be played out of the Max Bell Centre, which is the main facility used for the Mac’s Tournament, Father David Bauer Arena, the Flames Community Arena, with the championship games being played in the ScotiaBank Saddledome.
The teams include the Royals, Flames, North Stars, and Buffaloes, Calgary based male midget teams, as well as the UFA Bison. The female host teams are the Calgary Fire and Rocky Mountain Raiders.
The tournament is played in a round-robin style, followed by single elimination knock out, until there is a champion.
Despite losing in the semi-finals, Page’s team had gone 4-0 in the round robin.
“The team came together like I hadn’t seen before,” said Page, describing his team as average going into the tournament.
It was probably the best experience of my life. – Zach Russell
Page said the tournament was also overwhelming. The stands are packed with fans and family, plus it’s Christmas season.
“It’s one of those things you have to enjoy and take it all in. It happens so fast and then before you know it, [the tournament] is done,” said Page.
The remaining 33 selected teams, along with the pool placement, will be announced on Dec. 13.