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Hockey tournament to bring hundreds of international guests

The Pee Wee International Friendship Hockey Tournament, set for Hudson next June, is a return on the investment the community made when it built a second hockey arena in 2006, according to organizer Rich O'Connor.

"Now they are going to see one heck of a return for the dollars they have committed," O'Connor said of the businesses and individuals who donated time or money to build Raider Arena, part of the Hudson Sports & Civic Center complex on Hanley Road.

To date, 15 teams from other countries have committed to participating in the tournament scheduled for June 15-26, 2011. They include three teams from Australia, three from New Zealand, three from Japan, two from Canada and one each from South Korea, Russia and Denmark.

Teams from Dublin, Ireland, and northern Italy are trying to raise the funds to come -- along with a second team from Russia.

They'll join at least two teams from Hudson, one from Oakdale, Minn., and one from St. Paul in the friendly competition.

"We couldn't have done this tournament without that second sheet (of ice)," said O'Connor, who also played a leading role in raising funds for the second ice rink.

Organizers expect about 400 players from other countries to participate in the tournament. If past experience holds true, they'll be joined by about 400 family members and coaches.

O'Connor thinks even more adults might attend the 2011 tournament because it is being held in the United States.

He said he's already heard from a number of Japanese families that will attend even though they no longer have children ages 11-13 participating in Pee Wee hockey.

They want to renew friendships and take advantage of the chance to visit the United States, O'Connor said.

The first Pee Wee friendship tournament was held in Hachinohe, Japan, in 1989, organized by a resident of that city of about 250,000.

It's been held every two years since then.

The St. Paul Johnson area hosted the tournament in 1991, where O'Connor, then a Minnesota resident, became involved in it.

O'Connor, a financial advisor, moved to Hudson in 1999. When St. Paul again hosted the tournament in 2003, he got Hudson players involved action and found Hudson families to host skaters from Canada, Japan and Russia.

Hudson sent teams to tournaments in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in 2005; Dunedin, New Zealand in 2007; and Hachinohe, Japan, in 2009.

Organizers of the Hudson tournament are looking for families to host overseas players and businesses and individuals to sponsor the event.

The adults accompanying the international teams will stay in local hotels.

Shuttle buses will run from hotels to the sports center and commercial districts.

O'Connor said the shuttles will stop in front of businesses that help sponsor the tournament. They'll also get posters to display in their windows.

Anyone interested in hosting two players or helping fund the tournament is encouraged to contact O'Connor by e-mail at rmoconnor@comcast.net or Devin Willi at friendship2011@comcast.net.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066
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