By Ken Lay
Area high school hockey players will be on the ice for the Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association’s annual holiday tournament this week.
The New Year’s Eve Classic High School Tournament will be Dec. 28-29 at the Icearium.
The tournament has traditionally hosted some of the state’s and southeast region’s top high school teams along with the four Knoxville Area Teams. This year’s event, however, will feature a twist as it will involve only players from the KAHA High School League.
Those players have been re-assigned for the holiday event. There are four teams in the tournament field. The players were chosen in a similar process to how captains have chosen squads for the NHL All-Star Game in recent years.
“I tried to set it up where you have four evenly-matched teams to make things fair,” KAHA High School League Commissioner Tom O’Brian said. “Some of these players play together on our travel team but then, we have some who haven’t played together since they were kids in the house Squirt League.
“We wanted to make this fun for our coaches, players and families who wanted to come and play over the holidays. I wanted to make this as fun as possible.
“I wanted to take the pressure off so the kids could just come in and play hockey and have a good time. These kids play against each other [on their high school teams] three times a year.”
This year’s event is meant to be largely informal.
“We’ll have referees and we’ll play our three-period games and we’ll crown a champion,” O’Brian said. “We’ll have tournament awards and shout-outs. But we’re going to give different and fun types of awards.”
The team’s in this season’s tournament field include the Scorpions, the Toros, the Bengals and the Panthers.
Action opens Friday afternoon with the Bengals playing against the Toros at 1:10 p.m. The Scorpions tangle with the Panthers at 2:35 to conclude the afternoon session.
The teams will return to the rink Friday evening when the Toros play the Scorpions at 5:45. The Panthers will take on the Bengals at 7:10.
Action resumes Saturday morning as the Panthers play the Toros at 8:35 a.m. Preliminary play concludes at 10 a.m. when the Bengals take on the Scorpions.
The tournament consolation game will be at 1:10 p.m. It will be followed by awards. The top two teams will play in the championship game at 2:45.