The Okanagan Hockey Academy's players, fans and coaches weren't the only people sporting big smiles as the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament wrapped up Sunday.
In fact, the biggest one belonged to tournament chairman Ted Kowalsky.
Kowalsky said the tournament, the 46th annual but the first with him serving as chairman, went "unbelievably well."
"So well it was a little scary," Kowalsky said. "Everything fell into line. . . . I could not have imagined we would get so many accolades from scouts, coaches, parents, fans - everybody was happy."
OHA beat the Kamloops Jardine's Blazers 4-2 in Sunday's Tier 1 final at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
This year's tournament brought 28 teams - 12 in the Tier 1 Division, the rest in Tier 2 - to Kamloops. It also brought them here in January, the first time the tournament has tried such a date after 45 years as an Easter event.
Kowalsky was singing the praises of everyone Sunday - players, coaches, media and officials - but especially his fellow volunteers. He said every issue that arose was taken care of promptly.
This has him excited for the 2015 tournament, in which Kowalsky would like 16 teams in each division. The January date will stay, Kowalsky said, with next year's event to possibly go Dec. 31 to Jan. 4.
"The nice thing about this date is that we have a lot of (available) ice time," Kowalsky said. "We have a lot of facilities in town that we can go to, so we'll see which ice units we're going to use.
"We're not sure, but it can expand."
He also would like to add some European flavour, noting that organizers were "this close" to getting some this year.
"We've got a very strong possibility of bringing a European team over," he said. "Maybe two, we don't know, we're not pushing that."
As much as the future is on Kowalsky's mind, he's also thinking of KIBIHT's history. He is looking to start a KIBIHT Hall of Fame, and is asking people with memorabilia from past tournaments to donate it.
"We have people coming out of the woodwork with old memorabilia," he said. "You can contact me . . . on the website or the KMHA. We are going to establish a KIBIHT Hall of Fame, a KIBIHT memorabilia wall.
"We need to have something we can have and look back on, for the community, for Kamloops and all of the sponsors and hard-working volunteers."
The tournament appears in good hands going forward, and Kowalsky seems eager to serve as chairman.
"This isn't your ordinary bantam ice hockey tournament," Kowalsky said. "This is KIBIHT . . . this has class to it. The tournament has gone through some waves and this tournament is going to be as strong as ever with teams that want to come back - they're looking forward to coming back."
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