Hurricanes hosting GMHL all-star game - Jan. 10

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The stars will be shining on Tuesday, January 10 when the Tillsonburg Hurricanes host the 11th annual GMHL junior hockey all-star game at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena.

Warm-up starts at 7 p.m. and the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

"This is 'Canada' versus the 'World,'" said Ian Ellis, GM/owner of Tillsonburg's first-year GMHL franchise.

"There's a lot of Canadians in this league - and good ones," said Ellis. "And there's a lot of good Europeans. This is a different format. Normally it's North America vs World, but because there are so many Canadians, they went this direction this year."

Tillsonburg will have one representative in the game, based on where they are in the GMHL South Division standings. First place North and South teams get three representatives, and lower teams get fewer reps.

"Each team picks their representative," said Ellis, noting Tillsonburg's all-star would be Chandler Knibb... if he is healthy.

"He has a separated shoulder that he got from the (GMHL) Showcase," said Ellis after a mid-December game. "Let's hope he's 100 per cent and healthy by the time of the game."

If Knibb was unable to play, the Hurricanes would dress a replacement.

"There's a lot to pick from."

It's rare for a first-year team to get the all-star game, Ellis noted.

"It's amazing. It's something I thought about asking for asking for... so I advocated for it. The league look at Tillsonburg itself, what we Tillsonburg has to offer with the Community Centre, people who have supported the program, the players that we brought in, the billets, the sponsors... everybody involved business-wise and athletic side, the league recognized that.

The league executives have been to Tillsonburg, he said, and saw what the Hurricanes and the community have to offer.

"We're the first team in league history to be rewarded the all-star game as a new team, so it's quite an accomplishment for everybody in this organization to host this. And to represent the team in the league, and to have the town experience something like this.

"I think it's amazing."

Ellis, who grew up in Milton, did not remember his city hosting a junior all-star game. And the same during his time in Georgetown.

"Even four years in Woodstock, haven't seen it. So it doesn't come around a lot. There has to be something special that someone has seen here."

One of the major points, said Ellis, was scored with a positive atmosphere.

"Not our record," he said. "Not being 6-17-1, but it's the positive atmosphere that the kids bring to the rink, out in the community, supporting sponsors, going out shopping, eating at different restaurants... that's what the community sees, that's what the league sees."

The Hurricanes kick off the all-star evening on Tuesday with a 5:30 p.m. players' pre-game meal.

Anthems will be sung prior to the opening faceoff, and during the game (three 20-minute periods) there will be a 50-50 draw and other festive activities.

Each intermission will feature an all-star skills competition style event for fans to enjoy - and players to show their skills.

There's a financial commitment hosting the game, said Ellis, but he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to put spotlight on his team.

"For me, it's not about walking out of here 'laughing to the bank.' I'm not doing that. It's about covering the bills, covering the ice time, covering the food for all-star game - which Sobeys has sponsored all the food for the game for 100 people - all the players, owners. It's pasta, Caesar's salad, garlic toast... They've covered the tab for that."

Ellis said the team was still looking for smaller sponsors, possibly in the $100 ballpark.

"The ice time is $600 for the all-star game. We've already had the Shrine Club already donate $100 towards the ice. We're looking for small things, just to cover the tab.

"This is just a little extra entertainment for the fans and the community, and hopefully it brings more fans in here. Because they're going to see some good hockey. There's some topnotch hockey in this league. The South Division is a very, very good division. The championship - the Russell Cup - will be won by a team from the South," he predicted.



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