More than a year’s worth of discussing, planning, and preparing was condensed into one week’s worth of execution.
For Dudley Hewitt Cup chairman Larry Patrick and the rest of the tournament organizing committee, it couldn’t have turned out any better unless the hometown Lakers had captured the title.
“I think the biggest success of this tournament was the community support shown on all levels,” enthused Patrick.
“Once again, it shows that Fort Frances steps up to the plate for these kind of major events.”
Evidence of that could be found in the spectator count alone as the Ice For Kids Arena ended up setting a new attendance record for the tournament.
The exclamation point came Saturday night for the final between the Lakers and the eventual champion Soo Thunderbirds.
An unprecedented IFK crowd officially listed at 1,357 (which, in actuality, was more like around 1,500) provided the boost needed to break the record.
Many in that crowd hailed from outside Rainy River District and Patrick said from the reports he received, they enjoyed their time here immensely.
“We’ve received so many accolades from out-of-town visitors about Fort Frances,” he remarked.
“One parent told me what a vibrant community this is and even said they would love to move here.
“The photographers from OJHL Images, who took all the pictures during the week, do events all over the country and they even told me this is the best event they’ve ever done,” Patrick added.
Patrick said it was too early to tell what the revenue from the tournament will end up being but added the team wasn’t the only one to benefit from the week’s activities.
“I know for a fact [one major local restaurant] had a great week while others in town took the opportunity to go golfing or shopping,” he noted.
“And, of course, the local hotels did well with all they made from accommodations and meals.”
Patrick said the tournament only can be looked at as having been a boon to the profile of the town.
“Fort Frances is on the map now,” he stressed.
“We had people coming here who, before the tournament, were saying, ‘Where is that?’” said Patrick.
“But now they know why we’re called the jewel of Northwestern Ontario.”
Kirkland Lake will host next year’s Dudley Hewitt Cup and already is putting the wheels in motion to do things in similar fashion.
“Ted McGee of the NOJHL asked me to share the template of what we did here with the organizing committee for next year, which, of course, I would be glad to do,” said Patrick.
The next time the SIJHL is eligible to host the Dudley Hewitt Cup will be in 2018.
The only other viable candidate in the league to host the event, the Thunder Bay North Stars, already have indicated they probably will take on the role.
When asked if there were plans to bring the tournament back for a third time (the first having been in 2003), Patrick wasn’t making any premature guesses.
“Three years, or even six years, is a long way down the road,” he chuckled.