Toyota Hockey Challenge (Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario)

PrintToyota Hockey Challenge


2017 Toyota Hockey Challenge - Fall 2017, Event details TBA
Teams from Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge will compete to determine which squad will travel to Japan in March 2018!


- Visit our Facebook Page for Photos from the 2016 Excursion

The Toyota Challenge started when the President from Toyota Manufacturing Canada and Toyota Japan got together and decided what a great idea it would be for a friendship exchange to take place where a team from the Tri-Cities; Waterloo, Cambridge and Kitchener would travel to Japan to participate against the Tomakomai Allstars (an All-Star team made of the players from the 5 high schools in Tomakomai, Japan on the island of Hokkaido (Northern Japan)).  In the following year, they decided that the Tomakomai All-Stars would visit the Tri-City area to play the Association of the team that travelled to Japan the previous year.

March 2016 marked the 10th time that a team from the Tri-Cities has travelled to Japan; Cambridge=5 trips, Kitchener=2 trips and Waterloo= 3 trips.

The trip features two games in both Canada and Japan but the main focus of the trip is to learn about each other's culture through school visits, home visits and various site seeing adventures.

A select number of professional players have participated in the event including Tim Brent and Brian Little from Cambridge and Tanner Pearson from Kitchener, just to name a few.  These players consider their trip to Japan to be a highlight of their Minor Hockey careers.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Company oversees all the travel and accommodation requirements for players and coaches who participate in the event.  It is truly en experience of a lifetime!

Waterloo will host the Tomakomai All-Stars in March 2017.

Speaking the common language: Hockey

Justin Fauteux's column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected] , Twitter: @JustinFauteux

Waterloo Region Record

Road trips are a fact of life in competitive hockey. But 9,556 kilometres? Now that's not your average weekend tournament.

Later this month the Waterloo Wolves minor bantam AAA team will host an all-star team of Japanese high school students. The visiting team — from Tomakomai on Japan's northern island, Hokkaido — will travel across the globe to take part in the 20th edition of the Toyota Hockey Challenge.

Started in 1998, the Toyota Challenge is an annual event that brings together young hockey players from Waterloo Region and Tomakomai. The countries alternate hosting the exhibition series and cultural exchange, meant to connect young people through the universal language of hockey.

"Hockey's the glue," says Tony Martindale, executive director of Alliance Hockey, the minor hockey organization under which local teams play. "Having been to a number of these myself, it's really neat to see kids that don't speak the same language, but by the end of it, they're getting along so well."

In years where a local team is travelling to Japan, early-season results between the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge minor bantam AAA teams, plus an exhibition "championship" game, determine which city will represent the region. Last March, the Waterloo Wolves got to travel to Tomakomai after winning the Toyota Challenge final over Kitchener earlier in the season.

The team of 13 and 14 year olds spent a week in north Japan, touring historical sites, visiting local schools and homes, and of course, playing some hockey. The big take-away for the team's head coach Todd Townsend was how the players from different cultures connected.

"I thought the language would be a really big barrier," said Townsend, the minor bantam head coach again this year. "But with things like Google Translator and the fact that they were talking hockey, the language wasn't that big an issue at all.

"Even at the first reception when they paired them up to eat dinner, it was amazing how much banter there was even with language barriers."

Having been the representatives last year, this year's Waterloo minor bantam team will be the hosts for the Tomakomai all-stars later this month. The Japanese players will arrive March 22 and get a whirlwind tour of southern Ontario, hitting sites like Niagara Falls and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

They will also join the Waterloo players for visits at their schools and dinner at their homes as well as welcoming and farewell receptions.

And then there's the matter of the games. While it's certainly a friendly competition, Waterloo will be looking to avenge a pair of losses in Japan last year.

"They were easily the best team we faced all season," said Townsend of last year's edition of the Tomakomai all-stars. "We're definitely expecting this year's team to be really strong as well."

While Japan isn't thought of as your typical hockey powerhouse, the sport has grown significantly in the country since the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics — particularly in the north, where the climate is similar to Canada's.

"Especially around Tomakomai, (hockey's) gotten pretty big," said Martindale. "The Nagano Olympics had a big impact on hockey there and they have a professional league and they've made some big steps in their development programs."

Martindale added that in his years being involved, the series has always produced competitive hockey games, with the Japanese program getting stronger every year.

Before the Wolves can focus on their Japanese opponents, they have a rather important matter to attend to: the Alliance Hockey Championship. Starting this Friday Waterloo, winners of six-straight, will take on the Kitchener Jr. Rangers, who finished atop the regular season standings, for the minor bantam AAA crown.

Game 1 of the Alliance Championship goes Friday night at 7 p.m. at Sportsworld Arena.

The exhibition games between the Wolves and the Tomakomai all-stars are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on March 24 and 10 a.m. on March 25, both at the Waterloo Recreation Complex. Admission is free, though fans are encouraged to bring a donation for the Waterloo Food Bank.




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Printed from on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 9:40 AM