AMHERST, N.S. – A year from now the Amherst Ramblers will be preparing to host Eastern Canada’s top junior A hockey teams in the 2019 Fred Page Cup.
A delegation from the Ramblers and the town is in Ottawa this week to attend the 2018 Eastern Canadian championship tournament to meet with organizers there as well as representatives from Hockey Canada to prepare for next year’s event.
“It’s expected that the host committee from the next year’s tournament attend this year’s tournament to meet organizers from the Canadian Junior Hockey League and to take away the best practices from the tournament,” Amherst host committee chairman Bill Schurman said. “We’re going to meet with as many of the host committee members, so we can observe and do everything we can to come back with a better understanding of what’s expected in a tournament of this magnitude.”
Joining Schurman are Ramblers coach and GM Jeff LeBlanc, team president Gary Brown, Kim Campbell and Amherst’s Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie.
The Amherst delegation has a booth at the tournament with information on tickets, accommodations as well as on the venue, the town and Cumberland County.
“We’ll be attending everything we can possibly attend to wave the Amherst Ramblers, Amherst and Cumberland County flags,” said Schurman, who chaired the 1989 Centennial Cup (precursor to the RBC) and the 1997 RBC Cup in Summerside and the Memorial Cup in Moncton in 2006 as Wildcats GM. “The goal is when we come back to have a greater understanding of the expectations that come with hosting the Fred Page Cup.”
With a year to go before the 2019 tournament, Schurman said the host committee has been busy preparing since Amherst’s bid was accepted over that of the Valley Wildcats last fall. Ticket packages went on sale several weeks ago to Ramblers’ season-ticket holders and will go on sale to the general public later.
As well, the town is looking at some alterations to the stadium in preparation for the tournament and there will be money in this spring’s Amherst budget to fund the necessary renovations.
“We’ve identified through our bid package what we need to do and we’re working on what it’s going to take to do that,” he said. “We’ve started ticket sales, making certain those who already have season tickets can purchase tickets to guarantee them a seat for the Fred Page Cup. We have done a seating plan for the stadium. The seats aren’t currently numbered. We’ve been provided the opportunity to get quotes for some significant improvements to the stadium through the support of council and once we get those quotes we’re very hopeful that through the budget process we’ll be able to do some work on the stadium prior to opening next fall.”
Schurman said the call for volunteers has begun. Hosting an event this size requires a lot of volunteers.
“We’ve also committed to recognizing a hockey builder throughout every Maritime Junior Hockey League centre based on the history of Fred Page himself, who was a referee and a builder,” Schurman said. “We’ll be honouring someone during each of the games of the tournament.”
The Ramblers, he said, will be seeking sponsors through their regular sponsorship packages and LeBlanc will be attending the tournament to see the calibre of players at the tournament. The deputy mayor chairs the volunteer committee, so she’ll be trying to gather ideas on how to attract and organize those who will be helping out a year from now.
“Between us, we’ll be very busy trying to cover everything from A to Z from when the teams arrive on Tuesday to when they leave after the final game next Sunday,” Schurman said. “Everything we learn will help us next year.”