Iconic summer event is one of the first to return after year-long, nationwide pause

It’s supposed to be Canada’s game. For the better part of a fiscal year, though, it was one thing Canadians were restricted from partaking in. Whether it was at ice arenas, local rinks, frozen ponds or ODR’s in the backyard. It didn’t matter if they were high-ranking junior leagues, youth leagues or city rec leagues. The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on the game of hockey nationwide, in an unprecedented way. 

After nearly 16 months without hockey — among many, many other things — Canada has slowly begun to return to normalcy, as rinks begin to open fully and players get back on the ice.

It was a year where two of the country’s premier youth events were canceled, with the PeeWee Quebec in February and The Brick earlier this month in Edmonton. So when the puck dropped at the Montreal Meltdown, the 29-year-old event was a symbolic beam of hope for hundreds of hockey families.

“Amazing,” said tournament founder Dave Harroch. “People just want to play hockey. We don’t care, we just want our kids to play hockey. It feels like we’re normal again.”

Started in 1993 with just 11 teams, the Meltdown has swelled to more than 300 boys and girls teams across 11 age groups in a typical year. While Canadians have gotten the go-ahead to return to hockey, travel restrictions and closed borders still limit the 2021 event in some capacity. No American teams were admitted, and a field that usually consists of participants from countries around the world were limited to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

That’s okay to Harroch and the current field of teams; they’re just happy to be back on the ice.

“Up ‘til last week, we were limited to 25 fans per game,” he said. “As of this past Monday, we’re up to 50. We’re lucky enough to have LiveBarn in the venues to provide streaming for parents and people who couldn’t get in as well.”

The country, like the rest of the world, is not completely in the clear. Precautions are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, and any remaining restrictions will continue to be levied slowly. Harroch and his team have followed any and all protocols throughout the process in an effort to deliver high-quality and safe events to participants.

July 2nd marked the official start of the Montreal Meltdown, with five Girls’ Divisions competing on opening weekend. Over the next four weekends, more than 400 games will take place, before closing out festivities on August 2nd at the Pierrefonds Sportsplex. 

The month-long tournament will see hundreds of teams and families finally able to satisfy their hunger for hockey. What’s the expression? ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ After nearly a year-and-a-half hiatus, Canadians can be summed up in three words. 

“We’re just happy,” said Harroch.

Want more from the world of youth hockey? Be sure to connect with us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, features and more!

Find the next wave of NHL talent at this historic international tournament 

Patrik Laine. Mikko Rantanen. Rasmus Dahlin.

Miro Heiskanen. Andrei Svechnikov. Sebastian Aho.

Radek Faksa. Martin Necas. Pavel Zacha.

Ever wonder what a future NHL player looked like at 13-years-old? Some of the biggest names and rising stars in professional hockey share one thing in common stemming from their youth days. More than 500 draft picks have come through an illustrious global youth hockey tournament series called the World Selects Trophy (previously known as the World Selects Invitational).

It began nearly 17 years ago.

That’s when Sergei Zak, a native of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, who lived in Iceland at that time, and Travis Bezio, a lifelong New Englander from the United States, first crossed paths. They were just two spokes in the wheel of what would roll on to create the world’s most prestigious youth hockey tournament. 

Zak was in his third year working for the Icelandic Ice Hockey Federation and Bjorninn Hockey Club. Bezio was part of a group based out of the United States that identified the top youth hockey players in North America, and challenged them to compete against other top players from around the globe.

“He mentioned that they were [building] teams to go over to Sweden and Finland for a couple tournaments in the spring and invited me to come along as coach,” Zak said of his early interactions with Bezio. 

From there, an annual event spawned, where the top teams and players from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia began commingling in exotic destinations throughout Europe in cities like Stockholm, Moscow, Prague, Riga, Bolzano and Chamonix among others.

It began in 2007, and now the World Selects Trophy has become a traditional breeding ground for the top players in youth hockey; a place where scouts come to get their first look at the next wave of talent coming down the pipeline. The tournament series expanded from one event for a single birth year, to now 10 different events at two different competition levels for 12U, 13U, 14U and 15U for boys, and U15, U16 and U19 for girls. 

This spring, the 2009-birth year will be the youngest age group for boys, taking place in Bolzano Italy. The 2008-birth year will also take place in Bolzano on the following weekend while the 2007s square off in Chamonix, France. The oldest age group, the 2006s, will compete in Nashville, Tennessee in front of major junior, college and professional scouts.

It is the perfect combination of elite-level hockey and first-class travel. No other youth hockey tournament in history has provided a more diverse representation of styles, strategies and skills from its participants. North Americans are big and strong. Scandinavians are skilled and efficient skaters. Russians function with such great teamwork and playmaking. 

So many top players and teams have navigated through the tournament over the past decade, that the World Selects Trophy serves as the defacto World Cup for teenagers. NHL Central Scouting named 388 players to its early watch list for the 2021 entry draft next summer. Nearly half had competed in a WST between the 2014 and 2018 events.

“We have had some amazing teams participate over the years,” said Zak. “The ‘03 RUSS team won two events in a row in Helsinki and Chamonix, and then lost in overtime at the 15U North America tournament. Sweden Selects 2000s were another team that proved to be loaded with NHL talent.”

Fourteen players off that ‘03 RUSS squad were named to the NHL’s watch list last month, including Nikita Chibrikov, Ilya Ivantsov and Matvei Petrov. The 2000-born Sweden Selects roster had seven future draft picks, three of which went in the first round, including 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin.

Shane Wright. Connor Bedard. Ivan Miroshnichenko. Rutger McGroarty.

Don’t recognize the names yet? You will. 

Wright was the 2020 CHL Rookie of the Year. Bedard became the first player in WHL history to be granted exceptional status for early entry into the league. Miroshnichenko is one of the top prospects rising out of Russia. McGroarty currently leads the U.S. National Team Development Program U-17 squad in scoring. All of them fresh off of World Selects Trophy tournaments in 2017, 2018 and 2019. All of them highly-touted prospects by NHL scouts.

“I enjoy seeing the boys compete at a high level and develop a very competitive atmosphere,” said Zak. “We are very proud when these boys reach their goals in life and that our event could help them to reach those goals. That might not always be hockey, but being disciplined, being respectful to others. That is what the World Selects Trophy is all about. It helps develop them into young men and positively impacts people around the world.”


For more information on the World Selects Trophy and how you can apply for an upcoming event, click HERE.

Bold predictions for the 200×85’s CCM Tournament

More than 250 teams are set to converge on metro Detroit for the 2020 CCM World Invite Motown, with tons of top-tier talent and big-time matchups. There are plenty of primetime matchups between Top-10 teams scheduled during the first two days of the tournament, and we’ve spotlighted the four biggest ones. Preview this weekend’s games and get our picks for who wins in Detroit.

The ’09s headline the biggest matchups of the tournament, beginning with No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite versus No. 7 Chicago Young Americans. CYA took the first meeting 3-1 few weeks back, but I think PPE gets some redemption here, with a power-play goal or two and this feels like a 4-2 final to me in favor of Pittsburgh.

Another big matchup in that division is No. 3 Highland Park against No. 5 Little Caesars on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

This is another rematch here, H.P. outscored Caesars 6-4 back in September and I think it’s going to be high scoring again. I don’t know that the Falcons can beat Caesars a second time though, so we’ll take the hometown team to even the season series.

One more ’09 matchup, this one on Saturday morning between No. 8 Jr. Flyers and last year’s No. 5 Chicago Mission. Two relative unknowns so far in 2020; Mission hasn’t seen much action at all and the Jr. Flyers haven’t faced real tough competition yet. We’ll roll the dice a bit with Chicago 4-1 in this one.

The 2007 Division has a monster matchup between top-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 5 Little Caesars on Saturday morning. These two teams played a three-game series at the beginning of this month in Ohio, where PPE scored a total of 18 goals in those contests. I think Caesars keeps it closer, but the Pens are just too much at the end of the day. I’ll take Pittsburgh 5-2 over LC.

In addition to that, we’ve got predictions for Sunday and who wins the championship across all nine elite divisions:

2011: HoneyBaked
2010: Chicago Mission
2009: Little Caesars
2008: Chicago Fury
2007: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
2006: Compuware
2005: Little Caesars
2004: Chicago Mission
02-03: Belle Tire

Who do you got? Make your picks and tell us who’s gonna win on Twitter.