OMHA pleased with new playoff format with Windsor hosting several championships

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With its first big weekend down, the Ontario Hockey Association seems pleased with the new format for crowning provincial champions.

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In February, the OMHA announced five locations to serve as hosts to a total of 41 championships, which would be contested among 375 teams with over 850 games.

Last weekend, 19 teams headed to Windsor and competed for three titles in the Tier I division and another 34 teams are scheduled to head to the area to contest four titles in Tier III at the WFCU Center and Tecumseh Arena.

“We’ve got another weekend to go and, knock on wood, it’s been pretty good hockey,” OMHA executive director Ian Taylor said Thursday. “My biggest takeaway from being at the event was just the sheer amount of people. It looks like people are ready, after the last two years (with COVID-19), and just want to go out and celebrate whether its kids, parents, grandparents or hockey.”

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The new format replaces the old playdown format, which saw some teams season end in January. Barrie, Kingston, Oakville and Whitby are also hosting divisions.

“The big win from this format is that we don’t start playdowns in January,” Taylor said. “We can extend the season and everyone’s playing longer and playing meaningful competition until March.

“The goal is keeping more kids playing and more kids engaged. Competition is important, but it’s about playing longer and not all about winning. We want them to come back next year.”

Windsor is scheduled to host the event for this year and at least another in 2023.

“I think it’s a great location and I heard there were some very good games,” Taylor said of Windsor. “It’s a great facility, there are lots of (hotel) accommodations and things to do when you’re not at the rink. Kids are getting a chance to play on the same rink as the (Windsor) Spitfires and that’s a pretty big thing.”

Rather than two hockey centers battling to advance, the new tournament format has made the battle for a coveted red hat more of an event.

“When you go there, there’s a buzz,” Taylor said. “The format’s different from not having a host center. Being able to have an event style, with more teams able to participate, that’s what we’re trying to create and that excitement of an event.”

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