For the third year in a row, Alex attended a hockey tournament with rosters scattered with former, current, and future TampaCuse stars.

Never underestimate the power of asking for what you want.

I’ve traveled to Quebec City (QC) for three summers in a row now for Le Boot Camp, a hockey tournament that was created and continued by former Syracuse Crunch goalie Cedrick “Ceddy” Desjardins and his business partner Daniel Blouin. When I originally visited during the summer of 2015, I honestly didn’t expect to be making this trip an annual one.

I visited the event the first two years with Raw Charge co-founder Cassie, and I thought I was done making the six and a half hour drive in the middle of August. It wasn’t that the tournament wasn’t enjoyable, but so much travel in one weekend is getting tough on my old body. I also knew that Cassie wasn’t going to be able to go this summer, and going by myself wasn’t really appealing. So, I didn’t really figure I’d be visiting again, at least not any time soon.

Then Ceddy himself came to visit Syracuse during the Crunch’s extended playoff run this past spring. I slid myself into the line to visit with him during his appearance, and after his initial greeting, the first thing he asked me about was whether I was heading back to QC this summer. I stumbled through my answer — it has always been hard for me to feel like I’m disappointing someone — and returned to my seat with a groan. My friend Sunny asked me what was up, and when I told her that he had asked about the tournament, she immediately expressed her interested in going.

So, we packed up a rental car last weekend and headed up north to the province of Quebec. For about $25 American for the whole weekend, we got to enjoy a round-robin tournament featuring 12 separate games of hockey and 60 professional players, almost all of whom have seen time in either the AHL or the NHL.

It was easy to see that making a memorable yet affordable weekend for hockey fans young and old was one of the larger intentions of the tournament. I’m not kidding when I talk about the value of this weekend. Many of the players spent time out in the lobby speaking to fans, signing autographs, and taking pictures with tournament goers before or after their games. For a “vacation” that’s all about hockey, this is probably the cheapest trip I take all year, and the reasonable prices for the tournament allows for some flexibility when it comes to lodging. That’s really nice.

The tournament raises funds for the Quebec Cancer Foundation. The teams themselves are all sponsored by local businesses. For the most part, the organizers try to even out the talent as much as possible so no team is clearly better than another. Many of the players that attend use this tournament as a way to kick their off season training into high gear.

Overall, 11 players (if you count Boko, which I am) with ties to the Lightning/Crunch skated in the tournament this year. They were scattered across the six different rosters. Here’s the teams for the tournament for the summer of 2017:

Tampa Bay Lightning/Crunch forward Michael Bournival was supposed to attend, but was replaced by Alexandre Picard at the last minute. Lightning fans might remember Picard from Norfolk’s Calder Cup run in 2012, but I remember him from the five seasons he spent in Syracuse when the Crunch was affiliated with Columbus (Most memorable moment: “Did that one go in?”). There were a few other substitutions throughout the weekend, but overall most of the players who committed originally were able to skate.

One of the best things about this weekend is being able to watch players that I’ve come to cherish play the sport we all love in a completely stress-free environment. Doing that is basically impossible during the regular season, and is completely unthinkable during the playoffs.

Pre-season is probably the closest time of year that fans get to see stress-free hockey, but one team’s pre-season never has this much variety in terms of players and organizations represented. Honestly, this tournament is something special just for that fact alone.

With so many organizational players of the past, present, and future represented, it was easy to have a team to root for almost every game of the tournament. Fans who attended the tournament got to see three games Friday night, six games throughout the day on Saturday, and three games Sunday afternoon. The four teams with the highest point totals throughout Friday and Saturday faced off on Sunday, with a winner ultimately declared in the final game of the weekend.

Each game was three periods long, although the periods themselves were only fifteen minutes. Whistles were sparse, as were stoppages in play, so the games were quick and fairly competitive. Between the first and second period and the second and third period, fans were treated to one shootout try apiece for each of the competing teams, with any goals added to the team’s overall score. Team Allstate was the eventual champion:

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3 jours de gradins remplis au Boot Camp TaxUS. Édition record. Nos gagnants: équipe Allstate avec Huberdeau (Floride),…

Posted by Boot Camp on Monday, August 14, 2017

I’ll admit, I spent most of the weekend cheering for team Mitsubishi (Dumont & Picard) and team Allstate (Marchessault & Gourde). I had a mini meltdown when they played each other (did I say this weekend was stress free…?) and ended up cheering for all four of them separately instead of their actual teams.

Unlike three summers ago when I worried over the attendance, this summer marked a record year for the tournament. Friday and Saturday sold out, while Sunday was extreamly well attended. This no longer seems to be the best-kept secret in Quebec, something that’s a definite testament to how hard Ceddy and Blouin have worked.

Will I be back next year? Probably. Summer hockey, especially featuring so many guys so close to my heart, is just really difficult to say no to.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com