Silver Stick tourneys score hat trick for Midland businesses
The Bob Merkley Memorial Regional Silver Stick Hockey Tournament brings 44 teams to Midland over two weekends, providing an economic boost to the region.
“It puts the Town of Midland on the map because our tournament is considered one of the best in Ontario,” said Ross McConnell, tournament registrar of the event now in its 51st year.
McConnell is the former commissioner of the International Silver Stick across North America. The life-long hockey player has been inducted into both the Midland and Springwater sports hall of fames. He’s been volunteering for the Midland Silver Stick Tournament for close to 30 years.
“It’s really important to support the tournaments because it provides sport for the youth in the area,” McConnell said.
“We fill up quickly. All the teams like to come here because they feel welcome and we provide an excellent product.”
The tournaments run smoothly due to the fact that the committee members volunteer year after year and provide consistency, McConnell said.
The tournament used to run at Christmas but organizers moved it to the last weekend in November and the first weekend in December to get a maximum number of teams and players.
“It was a smart thing to do because now we have to turn teams away,” said McConnell.
The weekend of Nov. 25, 26 was the U15 and U18 boys tournament, won by the teams from Parry Sound and Niagara, respectively. This weekend, the tournament is for U11 and U13 boys played on the two ice surfaces of the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre.
Teams travel from Niagara, Muskoka, eastern Ontario and Simcoe County and about half the teams stay in local hotels, said McConnell.
Amanda Salo, sales manager of the Hampton Inn by Hilton Midland, said two teams booked multiple rooms last weekend and one team has booked in for this weekend.
“It brings business into our town. They are eating at our restaurants and staying at our hotels. They are being part of our community while they are here,” she said.
A Quality Inn and Conference Centre manager said one team booked rooms in the hotel last weekend and two teams have booked for this weekend while Andy Tapia, manager of the Super 8 by Wyndham Midland, said two teams booked into the hotel last weekend and one team is booked for this weekend.
But it’s not just hotels that benefit from the economic spinoffs created by major sporting events like the Silver Stick tournaments.
Graffiti Art of Midland benefits from the tournament as the clothing provider while also personalizing hoodies and tshirts with player’s names and numbers on site. The business is also a long-time tournament sponsor.
“The Silver Stick is a huge boost to our local Midland economy,” Graffiti Art owner Brad Copeland said. “The restaurants and hotels are busy, along with our downtown shopping core. We generously sponsor as we feel this tournament is so well run by the committee and the community benefits.”
A manager from Boston Pizza said they had teams eating at the restaurants last weekend and expect to serve more teams this weekend while the Boathouse Eatery also reports serving hockey teams last weekend and said they also expect more this weekend.
The tournament raises money for the Midland Minor Hockey Association.
“All the proceeds raised from entry fees is donated to Midland. That total is now close to $500,000. We do it for them,” McConnell said.
Sponsors are long-time supporters of the tournament including the Midland Civitan Club, Graffiti Art, Boston Pizza and the Merkley family, for which the tournament is named. Bob Merkley founded the tournament.
“All those sponsors have been sponsors for well over 20 years. The Civitan Club has been a sponsor since Day 1, for 51 years.”