The newly rebranded Hlinka Gretzky Cup, presented by RAM, is set to make its debut in Canada this weekend, as Edmonton and Red Deer will welcome the best under-18 players from eight of the world’s top hockey nations.
“Being able to see the greatest sprinter of all time, how much energy he brought to the stadium, that was a really special moment for me,” says Brown, who will be running in the 200-metres and 4x100m relay. “For the younger generation to see these athletes compete [at NACAC] and get a chance to meet the people they can only see on television or read about, hopefully that will lead to more participation for the next generation.”
A Toronto-native, Brown won’t be the only big-name athlete competing at the NACAC Championships. The international event will play host to 28 countries, with numerous Olympic medalists as well as World Champions, making it one of the most star-studded international track and field competitions in Canadian history.
2008 and 2012 Olympic champion in the 100-metres, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce highlights Team Jamaica, along with 400-metre specialist Stephanie Ann McPherson, both coming off Diamond League wins in London last month.
Joining Fraser-Pryce and McPherson in Toronto is world leader in the discus, Fedrick Dacres, who already has a victory in Toronto on his resume, winning the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Olympic medalists Sherika Jackson (400-metre and 4x400m), Christine Day (4x400m), Fitzroy Dunkley (4x400m) as well as World Championship medalists Shashalee Forbes (4x100m), Danielle Williams (100-metre hurdles), and O’Dayne Richards (shot put) will also be contenders for Jamaica. A full list of Team Jamaica’s athletes can be found here.
On Team USA, 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the pole vault Sandi Morris will lead the team on the field. On the track, the world record holder in the 100-metre hurdles, Kendra Harrison will be bringing the season’s fastest time, while 400m-hurdler Shamier Little is coming off a Diamond League victory in London as well.
Members of the U.S Olympic gold medal winning 4x400m team, Phyllis Francis and Courtney Okolo, along with World Championship medalists Jenna Prandini (4x100m), Ajee Wilson (800-metre), Michael Cherry (4×400), and Mason Finley (discus) round out those to keep an eye on. Full team can be found here.
19-year-old long jump phenom from Cuba, Juan Miguel Echevarria will be coming to Toronto as the world leader in the men’s long jump, having jumped 8.68 in Germany as well as a wind-aided 8.83-metres in Stockholm earlier this year.
Other notable athletes to keep an eye on from the international teams will be Alonzo Russell (2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 4x400m relay), high jumpers Donald Thomas (2007 World Champion) and Jamal Wilson (2018 Commonwealth silver medalist) from the Bahamas, Yarisley Silva (2012 Olympic silver medalist, 2015 World Champion in the pole vault), and Olympic medalists Keston Bledman (silver at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in the 4x100m), and Deon Lendore (2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the 4x400m) representing Trinidad and Tobago.
The NACAC Championships will also mark the return of some Canadian athletes who missed time due to injuries. Sage Watson made her return in London but missed the Canadian national championships with a sprained right foot injury while Commonwealth gold medalist and Canadian pole vault record holder, Alysha Newman will return after being sidelined since May, missing the Prefontaine Classic as well as the Canadian national championships with a knee injury.
“Going into NACAC, I want to compete healthy with my goal being to have fun,” Alysha Newman says. “This is the best of North America, Central America and Caribbean. They’re taking their top one and two in each event, gold medallists, record holders, there’s going to be so many athletes that you just don’t get to see unless you travel. We’re getting to the end of the season, women and men will be running, jumping and throwing their best. I’m expecting personal bests, national records and maybe even better than that will happen at this meet.”
With a talented line-up of athletes expected to compete at Varsity Stadium, Newman and Brown both believe how unique of an experience this will be for Canadians to experience a large size track and field meet in Toronto, especially with the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner.
“[Those in attendance] will get a sample size of what to expect for the Olympics in 2020,” Brown adds. “Now is the best opportunity to watch athletes from Canada and 27 other countries working towards 2020.”
From Aug. 6-11, the teams – Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States – will compete in 18 games over six days as they look to claim gold at the prestigious Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Historically hosted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, the tournament features the best young hockey players in the world and the future stars of the NHL.
“We are extremely excited to bring a world-class event to Canada this year, and to replicate the success the Czech Ice Hockey Association and Slovak Ice Hockey Federation have in hosting this tournament,” said Al Coates, executive director of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Hockey Canada. “The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is truly a best-on-best event that showcases the premier players under the age of 18. The event signifies the start of the hockey season as players strive towards achieving their goal of being selected at the 2019 NHL draft, and we look forward to hosting all teams and players as they compete for gold in Canada.”
Canada, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland (Pool A) will play all preliminary-round games at Rogers Place in Edmonton, while the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and the United States (Pool B) will play preliminary-round games at Servus Arena in Red Deer. All semifinal and medal-round games will be played in Edmonton.
TSN and RDS, the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada, will broadcast all preliminary-round, semifinal, and medal-round games in Edmonton. All preliminary-round games in Red Deer can be streamed live at HlinkaGretzkyCup.com.
Prior to the start of the tournament, teams will take to the ice in Red Deer and three surrounding communities for pre-tournament games. Slovakia will take on the United States at the NexSource Centre in Sylvan Lake, Alta., Sweden will match up against Finland at the Penhold Multiplex in Penhold, Alta., and Switzerland will play Russia at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe, Alta., with all games starting at 3 p.m. MT. Canada will wrap up pre-tournament action when it meets the Czech Republic at Servus Arena at 7 p.m. MT.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome local hockey fans, as well as some of the most prominent names in the sport, to Rogers Place to take in some truly exciting hockey,” said Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) CEO & Vice Chair Bob Nicholson. “Fans will get a first look at future stars of the game before they are even drafted. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is family-friendly entertainment and the perfect way to kick off the hockey season in Edmonton.”
Hlinka Gretzky Cup to feature two unique rule changes
Hockey Canada, in partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL), Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), the Czech Ice Hockey Association, and the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation, has also announced a series of rule changes that will be tested during all games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.-
Throughout the tournament, a team will lose the opportunity to change lines if a defending player or goaltender unintentionally dislodges the net, adding to the current rule that a minor penalty will be assessed to any player who deliberately dislodges the net.
When a team is awarded a power play, it will choose which offensive zone circle the ensuing face-off will occur, regardless of where the penalty was called. When the power-play team makes its decision, the short-handed team will be allowed to change lines first, followed by a line change by the power-play team if necessary.
As with all Hockey Canada events, net proceeds from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup will remain in the host province to support the growth of the game and grassroots hockey initiatives. Hockey Canada and the Czech Hockey Association, along with the Slovak Hockey Federation, have partnered to bring the event to Canadian ice in 2018, 2020, and 2022. The regional economic impact of hosting the Hlinka Gretzky Cup could top $5 million based on the results from hosting similar events of this size and scope.