After nine years of organizing what has become a massive London Devilettes Girls Hockey Association tournament, Sandra and Rick Grant are getting ready to step aside and let someone else have a go at it.
But they’ll move on knowing that the event has moved to an elite level that not many other tournaments in any sport, either male or female, have attained.
The 24th annual Devilettes tournament will feature 16 divisions and 142 teams. More than 2,000 players will participate.
When you take into account the coaches, parents, friends and assorted other individuals coming into London, the numbers would be big enough to form a small village.
“Previously, we were always known for running the largest tournament of any sporting tournament in the city of London,” said Sandra Grant. “I don’t know if that still holds true but there are a lot of people that are coming into London for the event.”
It’s a good bet that as an annual event, it remains the biggest tournament in London. The tournament has attracted more teams in the past, in some years more than 150 teams. The numbers remain impressive and whenever that many people roll into a city, they spend a lot of dough.
“Our biggest logistical challenge is hotel rooms in the city,” Grant said. “We could probably obtain more ice and have even more teams come to the tournament. We certainly have more teams interested in coming to the tournament. But we sell out every hotel room in the city. We’re really kind of crippled by having a limit on hotel rooms here.”
Organizers use hotel rooms in adjoining communities as well.
When the Grants took over running the tournament nine years ago the tournament had 100 teams. Once a team participates they return time and time again.
“You see kids play at one level and watch them come back year after year,” Grant said. “They eventually wind up graduating and going to university and colleges in Canada and the U.S. It’s nice to see them transition to that.
“This is our 24th tournament. The London Devilettes Girls Hockey Association has been around 28 year now. It gets to the point where the Monday after the tournament participants are booking their hotel rooms for the following year.”
Grant says that the tournament has grown so much that it’s become virtually a year-round job to organize it. She works at it with her husband Rick and others from June until March.
Rick also coaches a Devilettes team. He handles the scheduling and makes sure that the tournament runs on time and that teams that travel from far outside London are scheduled appropriately so they don’t have to rush to get to the tournament.
Aside from the competition, Sandra Grant says that it’s the care the Devilettes take in those little things that makes people want to come back over and over again.
“What sets us apart is we have always been well known out there in the hockey community for having a well-run tournament,” she said. “We take advantage of Western Fair Sports Centre, which is a great facility to host the tournament, coupled with other nice available rinks. I probably shouldn’t say this out loud because it might jinx us but we pride ourselves on always running on time. Teams say it’s fair, its well run and very well organized.”
As much as the Grants have enjoyed the last nine years, Sandra says they are looking forward to moving on to something else.
“It’s time to pass that torch on to others,” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity.
“Right now I can’t wait for it to be over. It will seem different next year. It will seem odd not to be at the helm or involved in it anymore, but it’s time to back away and pass the torch over.”
The tournament begins Friday with the finals being played Sunday afternoon.