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Pee Wees hit the ice in Bemidji

Everything is in place for another successful Paul Bunyan International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament which will be held this weekend at four different Bemidji venues.

The Sanford Center will be today's showcase location as the facility will be home to the 9:30 a.m. opening ceremony and the first-round match-up between Bemidji and Fort Frances.

Hockey action is also scheduled for the Community Arena, the Nymore Arena and the City Arena. Sunday's championship games will be held at the events center while the consolation title games are scheduled for the BCA.

"We have 16 teams, including Bemidji, entered and that's all we have the ability to handle," said Diane Fitzgerald who is the tournament chairperson.

"Of the 16 teams only Waconia and Andover are new to the tournament. All the other teams are returning and that speaks very well of how we run the tournament."

"The word is out," said Bemidji Pee Wee coach Neil Huewe whose team is the defending tournament champion. "Some tournaments are struggling to survive but we have to turn teams away."

Fitzgerald reports that four teams are on the current waiting list and, because of so little turnover, they may have to wait a while longer.

The reasons for that success are obvious to all who attend and who organize the tournament.

"In addition to having quality teams in the field we strive to provide a 'wow factor' for the participants," Fitzgerald said.

"Among this year's wow factors are the opening ceremonies at The Sanford Center, our skills challenges and our spaghetti feed. Ten years down the road a pee wee player may not remember where his team placed in the tournament but he might remember winning the skating skills challenge or the parade of teams during the opening ceremony. We want to make the tournament as memorable to the players and coaches as we can."

Fort Frances will likely remember this year's event as it will have the honor of opening its schedule at the events center against Bemidji.

"As a committee we studied all of the teams and decided it would be appropriate to have our neighbor to the north play Bemidji at The Sanford Center," Fitzgerald said. "Fort Frances has been coming to the tournament since at least 1988 and we appreciate (the loyalty)."

Fans are invited to watch games at all of the community rinks and no admission or parking fee will be charged.

Results will be available following each session at

Paul Bunyan Pee Wee Tournament

Friday's Schedule

9:30 a.m.: Opening ceremonies (TSC)

11:30 a.m.: Bemidji vs. Fort Frances (TSC); Devils Lake vs. Cloquet (BCA); Keewenaw vs. Rogers (NA); Hermantown vs. Armstrong Cooper (City)

1:15 p.m.: Andover vs. Sioux Falls (BCA); St. Cloud vs. Hastings (NA); Crookston vs. Waconia (City

3 p.m.: Grand Forks vs. Virginia (BCA)

4:15 p.m.: Bemidji vs. Devils Lake (NA); Fort Frances vs. Cloquet (City)

5:45 p.m.: Hermantown vs. Keewenaw (BCA)

6 p.m.: Armstrong Cooper vs. Rogers (NA); St. Cloud vs. Crookston (City)

7:45 p.m.: Grand Forks vs. Andover (NA); Virginia vs. Sioux Falls (City)

8:15 p.m.: Hastings vs. Waconia (BCA)

Saturday's Schedule

8:30 a.m.: Rogers vs. Hermantown (BCA); Bemidji vs. Cloquet (NA); Sioux Falls vs. Grand Forks (City)

10:15 a.m.: Devils Lake vs. Fort Frances (BCA); Keewenaw vs. Armstrong Cooper (NA); Andover vs. Virginia (City)

Noon: Crookston vs. Hastings (BCA); Waconia vs. St. Cloud (NA)

5 p.m.: North Division 4th seed vs. South Division 4th seed (BCA); North Division 3rd seed vs. South Division 3rd seed (NA)

6:45 p.m.: East Division 3rd seed vs. West Division 3rd seed (BCA); North Division 2nd seed vs. South Division second seed (NA); East Division 4th seed vs. West Division 4th seed (City)

8:30 p.m.: North Division 1st seed vs. South Division 1st seed (BCA); East Division 1st seed vs. West Division 1st seed (NA); East Division 2nd seed vs. West Division 2nd seed (City)

Sunday's Schedule

9 a.m.: Headwaters Bracket championship (TSC); Headwaters Bracket consolation championship (BCA)

10:45 a.m.: Blue Ox Bracket championship (TSC); Blue Ox consolation championship (BCA)

12:30 p.m.: Lumberjack Bracket championship (TSC); Lumberjack Bracket consolation championship (BCA)

2:30 p.m.: Championship Bracket title game (TSC); Championship Bracket consolation title game (BCA)

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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