Highway comment irks: Paulson

U18 BID: | Hockey Canada says travel time the issue.

A comment about Port Alberni’s “poor” highway access, attributed to a Hockey Canada official, has riled city councillor and former U17 world hockey bid chairman Ron Paulson.

However Dean McIntosh, senior director of events and properties for Hockey Canada, said the issue is about travel logistics—not highway safety.

“In the history of the [U18 women’s national championship] we have never hosted it in multiple communities,” McIntosh said in a phone interview from Hockey Canada’s Calgary office.

“This is the first bid we’ve received from a multiple-community bid.”

Paulson sits on a committee of six Vancouver Island communities that submitted a joint bid to host the U18 women’s national championship in 2016.

“In one of the recent phone conversations with Hockey Canada, they said they really wanted to look closely on the bids from Vancouver Island…they expressed concern about the highway access into Port Alberni,” Paulson said.

“I am quite upset that the comment was made. This is a national sports organization making this comment. This is fuel for our highway committee for another access into our community,” he said.

The U18 women’s championship comprises eight regional teams from across Canada and is held primarily for scouts to see athletes compete against each other. “The female scouting pool is a lot smaller than we have on the male side,” McIntosh said.

Getting scouts from Cowichan up to Campbell River and again to Parksville or Nanaimo to watch games on the same day could be a challenge. But concerns have never been “specifically highway safety,” he said.

Only one bid has been received to host the U18 championships in November 2016, he added.

“It’s a difficult decision for us to make as a selection committee, because ultimately the player experience is our No. 1 priority,” McIntosh said.

“I would make the exact same comment if the bid had come from Saskatchewan…how do you get people to various places and see games.”

Paulson said Hockey Canada saw first hand how a multi-community bid can work on Vancouver Island when the 2009 U17 men’s world hockey championships were held here—including Port Alberni.

The bid committee has revised its schedule in an attempt to assuage Hockey Canada’s concerns, he added.

McIntosh said a decision will be made by the time Hockey Canada holds its spring congress in May.