As frustrating as not being able to find a spot to shoot photos can be, the overloaded crowd during the semifinal matchup between Team Brick Alberta and the Toronto Bulldogs was worth the laps around the mall.
The home team on a weekend day is a recipe for noise, and fans, parents, and random spectators alike were drawn in by the contest. Defeating the defending champion Bulldogs brought the onlookers to full volume at the end of regulation, a special moment for all involved.
Team Brick Alberta's win over the Toronto Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon was a cacophony of cheers and chants.
One of the first things about The Brick that you will notice is the referees do not wear helmets. Despite some obvious concerns of safety, some very positive things occur as a result.
First, the lack of a helmet is a friendly reminder that this is ten-year-old hockey. Second, it humanizes what the officials are doing. Brick parents and coaches are the most well behaved of any event YHH has ever covered.
This year, one referee really stood out. Chris Devlin from Edmonton seemed to do a great job in every game he was asked to officiate. His demeanor with the coaches, the players, and at times with the fans was refreshing to watch. He was a step ahead of the play and let the teams decide the game.
Chris Devlin, Brick Official
After winning three straight games to earn a spot in the playoffs, most figured Minnesota would have been content to merely be playing on Saturday. No sir. Despite being heavily outshot - but not out-chanced - Team Minnesota corralled a 3-1 lead early in the third period.
The Bulldogs, coached by Dave D'Ammizio, bullied their way back to an even score with a pair of goals in the third frame, forcing overtime in the win-or-finished contest.
After a no-goal call against Team Minnesota, Toronto's Kingston Harrie roofed a puck in the slot past Minnesota's Cade Nystrom to send the Bulldogs to the semifinal round. Gnawed fingernails and dehydrated chewing gum were maladies suffered by nearly everyone on the railing for this barn-burner.
Kingston Harris flies down the ice after scoring in overtime of the Toronto Bulldogs' 4-3 first-round victory over Team Minnesota.
The juxtaposition of the red gloves and white helmet with a traditional black uniform offers a punch that is at the same time modern and original.
If I'm a sucker for the 1993-1994 version of former Vancouver Canucks star Pavel Bure, then I'm a sucker for the black jersey with blazing skate.
How often does a goaltender act out this sequence in the driveway, or his or her basement?
Final seconds of the championship game. Skater bearing down on you unencumbered by a defender. One-on-one, a battle of wills for what would almost certainly have been the game-winning goal.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers goaltender Luke O'Neill crouched, the flung his blocker to his right, tipping a nearly-perfect shot from Team Brick Alberta's Evan Lynch into the corner of the Jr. Rangers zone to preserve the 2-2 tie and force overtime. Without O'Neill's save, the Jr. Rangers would have been in the unenviable spot of trying to tie the game with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation.
The Brick Committee named its All-Tournament teams on Sunday and its Most Valuable Player selection. All were nice choices, with very little to dispute. So many groups had so many great players who also deserve some recognition for their contribution last week at the Ice Palace.
Naming 12 individuals from a list of 240 great players is tricky. Stars like Jacob Lukes (Chicago), Xavier Rowe (Toronto Pro Hockey) and Jaako Wycisk (Minnesota) all showed flashes of brilliance last week in Edmonton. The defensive corps from both Toronto teams were scary good.
Here is a list of players that made some eye-catching plays all week long.
Ryan Hanrahan (Quebec) - Forward
Matthew Henderson (Detroit) - Defense
Grady Schaefer (Western Selects) - Forward
Ethan Sung (Western Selects) - Defense
Tony Timmerman (Minnesota) - Forward
Tony Timmerman, Team MN
In Team Brick Alberta's second game, on the first day of the tournament, forward Luke Ruptash collided with a Jack Rose of Team Pennsylvania and suffered an injury that would keep him out of competition for at least the rest of the week.
Knowing how devastating the inability to play can be, Rose and Team Pennsylvania presented Ruptash with a get well soon token, a plaque engraved with a pair of skates and a signed card from Team Pennsylvania in a wonderful gesture toward an opponent.
At the end of the tournament, Ruptash exchanged jerseys with Rose in another show of solidarity.
Team Brick Alberta's Luke Ruptash (left) and Team Pennsylvania's Jack Rose after trading sweaters after the championship game last Sunday.
In an attempt to bring back the magic of the original Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Red Wings Brick team brought a little seafood flair to the West Edmonton Mall. Before each game, a designated tosser would ascend the second floor of the mall with a plastic bag, remove the octopus, and hurl the invertebrate animal onto the ice, much to the delight of the Red Wings and Motor City faithful.
Detroit's tentacled mascot sails toward the ice during the 2019 Brick Invitational.
As cliche, as it may sound, running a tournament, is a duck on water. Along the surface, things appear calm, content, and confident. Beneath the tiny ripples, there are churning feet, running on the power of Tim Horton's, food court delicacies, and aspirin.
Keeping the trains running on time is more of a balancing act than fans and players realize, and no "Best Of" article could be considered complete without mentioning the dedication and commitment of the Brick Invitational volunteers, of which there are too many to name individually.
The directors, Russell Loga (Tournament Operations), Trevor McGrandle (Corporate Services), and Sonny Sekhon (Volunteer Services), and Chairman Craig R. Styles and Executive Director Andy Wigston were on hand all week. Having tournament directors on-site is an under-appreciated aspect of events, and not a game went by without at least one, if not all five, appearing along the rail to take in the action on the ice.
Public Address announcer Marty Enokson is another Brick institution, creating a buzz in the mall even at 7:30 in the morning with his team introductions and thoughtful music choices. Just another piece of what makes the tournament a truly exceptional experience for players, coaches, parents, and fans.
The list of Brick Invitational volunteers from the 2019 tournament program.