In a game centered around statistics, the annual early-November CCM World Invite is filled with numbers of note:
The 3-day tournament, running November 3-5, will feature 524 teams skating on 58 sheets of ice inside 33 ice rinks in 2 states (Illinois and Wisconsin) with more than 10,000 participants. The tournament has been a proving ground for more than 100 players who have gone on to skate in the NHL, including Andrew Copp, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Sequin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tyler Toffoli, Vincent Trochek, Max Domi, Seth Jones, Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Clayton Keller, J.T. Compher, John Moore, Dustin Byfuglien and many more.
The CCM World Invite is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.
“This is one of the hardest tournaments in the world to win,” said Kevin Mann.
The event features competition at Elite AAA (Supertacks), AAA/AA (Jetspeed) and AA (Ribcor) divisions. The 2009 AA bracket, for instance, features a tournament-high 40 teams, including the Chicago Flames, Chicago Hawks, Glenview Stars and West Dundee Leafs, among others.
Teams may have to win three games in a row on Sunday to win the championship.
The yearly tournament started as the Nike Bauer, then switched to the Bauer World Invite for 11 years in a row.
“We had a very small event (in year one) with approximately 20 teams,” Mann said. “We started the tournament to help promote local AAA programs like the Chicago Mission and Chicago Chill (now Fury). We wanted to show Chicago as a great destination as a city and for competitive hockey.”
Most games then were played at the Addison Ice Arena.
By year five, the tournament was averaging about 200 teams.
For the last 10 years, the event has been capped at 524 teams.
The CCM World Invite has welcomed teams from around the world, as participants have come to Chicago-area rinks from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia, Slovenia, China, South Korea, Finland, and of course Canada.
Off-ice sideshows are a legacy of the CCM World Invite, too, as it has welcomed the Stanley Cup and hockey’s most infamous trio: the Hanson Brothers of Slapshot fame. Plus, the CCM World Invite has hosted members of the Stan Mikita Hockey School For The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing, the Hornets Sled team, the Warriors hockey team, area police and fire department teams, and others.
“Having the Stanley Cup in the building is a special treat,” Mann said. “The Hockey Hall of Fame has done a tremendous job supporting our event.”
The Cup and all NHL award trophies will be in Chicago for the weekend.
The CCM World Invite has hosted the Russian Red Army teams “and having them play in our Opening Night Feature Games,” is a lasting memory, Mann said. “We had people 10 deep along the glass and the building was full of 2,000 people. One year we had the Hornets Sled team play a celebrity team of past NHL stars and that was a terrific night for everyone to see just how humbling and difficult that game is.”
The CCM World Invite also has hosted a Chicago Steel USHL game and had the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni play against the St. Louis Blues Alumni.
“We set the standard for an opening night celebration where coaches/managers can come and meet their peers in a social setting outside of a hockey game,” Mann said. “We provide all the food, entertainment, ice carvings, and drinks courtesy of the Wirtz family, particularly the late Rocky Wirtz. We add amazing activations for players, including a CCM equipment demo, Hockey Hall of Fame interactive games and tons of other sponsors to showcase their hockey goods. In addition, we feature the very best 10- to 16-year-olds in showcase games and have incredible celebrities show up and engage with our teams.” The Hanson Brothers, for instance, have been tournament fixtures for 15 years.
AHAI President Kevin Bolger will attend the opening ceremony, and Danny Wirtz is doing a ceremonial puck-drop in honor of his late dad, Rocky.
Mann, who has been involved with the tournament since game one, said their goals for this milestone tournament are to simply to “keep stepping up our game and showing every team, coach, player and parent that we care. We want everyone to have the best experience coming into Chicago, on and off the ice.
“We invite the AHAI community to come experience a hockey celebration on Thursday, November 2nd at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge from 4-9 p.m.”
Tournament officials are assigned by AHAI Assigners and more than 300 officials from at least 30 states across America are set for the onslaught of hockey in the Chicago market to kick off November.