Brooks, Alta., is Bandits country.
But it’s also hockey country, and now hundreds have descended on the small city and its surrounding communities to watch five teams play.
“It’s half our hotel,” said Heritage Inn Brooks general manager Eric Deringer on Tuesday. “It’s 100 rooms between two properties for 10 days.”
After years of putting together successful teams but unsuccessful hosting bids, Brooks is seizing the opportunity to shine at the 2019 National Junior A Hockey Championship.
“We’ve seen right from Day 1, right when tickets went on sale, that Brooks fans are hungry for an event like this and they’ve been waiting a long time for it to come here,” host committee chair Tyler King said.
“We knew once we could offer it to them, the rest would come like clockwork.”
The NJAC is expected to have an economic impact between $2-2.5 million.
WATCH: Brooks Bandits gun for national title after winning 3rd AJHL championship in 5 (2016)
Some businesses have been prepping for this week from the moment Brooks was announced as the host — and they’ve found some unique ways to make the most of it.
One local coffee shop has given its menu a hockey-themed makeover, thanks to a suggestion from a customer.
“We have the Breakaway Breve, Championship Latte, Puckachino, Crosscheck Chai, Bandits Bubble Tea,” owner Sandy Haberman-Melville said.
Those aren’t the only changes she’s made in light of the event, though.
“We’re doing extended hours on nights when there are events downtown and we’re open on Sundays,” she added. “We’ve also added a patio just for the NJAC tournament.”
Hockey Canada has also taken notice of the tournament’s early success.
It’s already discussing bringing events to Brooks in the future.
“There’s potential to host camps, exhibition games, things like that,” Hockey Canada events and properties senior manager Jeff Beck noted. “We know we can put our teams in here, whether it’s national teams or teams at the club level.
“We know we have that opportunity in this building.”