Montreal celebrates their 2023 tourney victory Sunday
There are only a few debates on what the best youth hockey tournaments in North America. If you want large, there are lots of those. If you want a blend of culture and top Peewee hockey, it's the Quebec International every February.
What The Brick International lacks in culture, it far makes up for with talent, drama and excitement. It's an experience playing in the heart of West Edmonton Mall. With no glass between the players and fans and the sun shining down on the ice, it is an atmosphere unlike any hockey event in the world.
The 2023 was more of the same. Great talent. Great uniforms. Great Experience. But as a fan of Minnesota players, it is always special to see our kids succeed on a big stage. Proof that our community-based model fosters a great way to develop some of the best players in the world.
Here is our take on some of the best things we saw while at the Mall
Hands down the best - BC tribute jersey.
One of the first things that intrigued me about the Brick back in 2009 was the Uniforms. The Toronto Bulldogs had all yellow jerseys with a Michigan winged helmet (and a skating mascot).
And from that year until today, the uniforms just keep coming. In waves.
This year some organizations had a jersey for every day of the week (Boston). Two organizations - Detroit and Alberta - practically had matching red jerseys. How is that possible?
A few groups rock virtually the same sweater set each year (Toronto Pro, Western Selects, and Saskatchewan.
And then there are wild cards. Teams who mix it up.
Alberta, BC, Connecticut and Boston aren't afraid to give it the old college try each year. Sometimes it works (Alberta Black 2009) and sometimes it goes down in flames (BC 2022).
This year, Boston and BC went to town on their jersey budgets. We've lost track of how many editions they put out. Boston had White (USA), White (Regular), Yellow and Black. BC had a black, yellow and a white tribute.
The BC white tribute to past drafted players (Barzal, Bedard, Jones, etc) who have come before these current British Columbians was jaw dropping. And as if the white wasn't enough, they rolled out a gold jersey with a skating Canuck (three eyeball emojis).
While we are at it, this effort from BC was also in the 9.8 to 9.9 range (out of 10)
Pennsylvania - simply amazing!
Choosing the best cheering section every year is always tricky. Each year we travel to the Mall, it seems each fan club grows in numbers and grows in swag.
Much like a Friday Night football theme, some groups are rolling out a theme for each day. Minnesota 2022 hit levels that may never be reached again. Each day their game got better and better, just like their team.
Minnesota had another great year of support, both numbers and swag. Their fans were very positive and loud. From what we could tell, the players fed off their energy.
This year's winner was Pennsylvania. Each day they had a theme. Some days it took a while to figure out what it was, but one day there was no mistake. The PA fans had a tiki party complete with grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts.
If you know, you know.
Another solid effort from our Minnesota friends
Ralph Mendita - Super Fan
Every team had at least one super fan or a cluster of fans in their section. Montreal had Lone Ranger guy, who brought everything but his horse Silver. Chicago put the wind in windy city with the flags they waved all week long. Keeping with tradition, Detroit tossed an octopus onto the ice prior to every game.
But the one fan who you could not miss at the mall every day was Ralph Mendita. Ralph is from Edmonton and he became a fan of all the teams and all the players.
His signs to the players and to the passers-by left a long lasting effect on us all. Thanks Ralph for your energy!
We saw some great teams last week in Edmonton. Including the first-time champion Montreal Canadiens. What a squad they were!
Detroit was one slap shot away from overtime with Minnesota. Pennsylvania was one game from their first ever playoff appearance. The three-time defending champs, CJR, had a great run again this summer.
With some bias to our hometown readers, the best team we saw was Minnesota. Team Minnesota was barely a .500 team against Brick competition this spring and early summer. They lost to Montreal in a pre-tournament friendly 11-1.
What hockey fans saw unfold in six days was remarkable and remarkably fun to watch. A group of boys who started to learn to trust their coaches, themselves and their ability. They were tough as nails, rarely lost puck battles and/or races to pucks. They were disciplined and never got down when they were under pressure.
Even when facing a 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 deficits on Sunday they clawed back and gave Montreal the game of their lives. Out chancing, out shooting and out playing the champions for much of the game.
Hats off to the four coaches, the families who traveled to Edmonton and especially to the Cardiac Kiddos who made our ride to the Mall so much fun every day last week.
Most heroes don't wear capes...Mason Unklesbay was a an OT hero twice last week for Team MN
Declan McNamee - CT JR Rangers
DEF - Declan McNamee, CT JR Rangers
Notes: The most complete defender in the Brick. Skated well, dictated the pace of play and had a very high hockey IQ. If McNamee were in the movie business, he's the Main Character. Every shift eventually the puck would end up on his stick and he would nail his part in one take.
DEF - Beau Lancette, Team MN
Notes: Incredibly not named to the first team. Lancette defended and controlled the puck on almost every shift he took. And he took a lot of shifts last week. It was great to see Beau and all of the MN defensive corps grow up as the week wore on.
FWD - Harley George, Detroit
The Brick had three incredible forwards on their first team. Cameron Coombe, Cooper Hackett and Liam Tep. They were head and shoulders three of the most dominant performers we've seen covering the Brick the last 10+ years. Enter a skater like Harley George. Harley broke the Brick record for points in the Brick (19), killed penalties, sold drinks at Orange Julius and blew our mind with his ability to skate, pass and score.
FWD - Felix Beauchesne, MTL JR Canadiens
If you think his name is hard to pronounce, imagine trying to stop him from scoring. Felix was one of the fastest and feistiest skaters the Habs trotted out this year. His short-handed goal versus Minnesota late in the third period was a big blow to the Wigston Conference champions chances.
Goalie - Cooper Rowson, BC JR Canucks
There have been a great lot of goalies who have cut their teeth at the Brick. In a year where three players broke Cole Caulfield's scoring record, the goalies saw a lot of rubber. One goalie who stood out as both a starter and reliever was Rowson. Rowson was athletic, was not afraid to challenge shooters and always found a way to keep BC in games.
Harley George - Detroit
Tanner Peterson - Team Minnesota
Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game in 1962, Reggie Jackson knocked three out of the park in game 6 of the 1977 World Series and Jim Craig turned away 39 shots faced to lift Team USA to gold in the 1980 Olympics.
On Sunday at the Brick final, Tanner Peterson scored three goals at the West Edmonton Mall. The third goal triggered an eruption of cheers, hats and bodily fluids from Peterson's adoring fans.
Tanner Peterson burying one of his three goals Sunday vs. Montreal