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Youth hockey tournament brings Midwest teams together in Fremont

By Fremont Tribune, 02/09/21, 12:30PM CST



Eight youth hockey teams from across the Midwest gathered in Fremont last weekend to take part in a 16-game tournament at Sidner Ice Arena.

“That’s a lot of hockey in a very short amount of time,” Sidner Ice Arena Director Angie Wyle said. “But overall, everything ran really well, kept on time and everybody was pretty happy to be here.”

The Midwest Squirt Select Finals took place Jan. 29-31 at the Fremont Family YMCA. The end-of-the-season tournament included teams of children ages 9 and 10.

The tournament featured teams from Fremont, Omaha and Lincoln, as well as Wichita, Kansas; Des Moines, Iowa; and three from Kansas City, Missouri: The Junior Mavericks, Stars and Carriage Club.

The teams were divided in half into two divisions based on their placements throughout the season. The gold division hosted Fremont, Omaha, Wichita and the KC Jr. Mavs, while the silver division hosted Lincoln, Des Moines and KC Stars and Carriage Club.

“So it was one big tournament that was going on, but there were really two separate tournaments that were divided up playing for two separate championships at that point,” Wyle said.

The Fremont Flyers ended up winning the gold division tournament, beating Omaha in a 2-1 game for the championship.

Wyle said the tournament was hosted in a safe fashion, with precautions taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic including limiting attendance and requiring masks when not on the ice.

“We’re just trying to make sure there’s a lot of safety items in place,” she said. “Especially when you have eight teams coming in from all across the Midwest, safety is the No. 1 priority for those athletes at that point in time.”

Additionally at this time, the YMCA is hosting other tournaments, including tennis, swimming and basketball, in which the precautions will also be in place, Wyle said.


“There’s a lot of coming and going, and I think the Y itself has done a great job of implementing COVID policies, but trying to keep sports going and everything running as normally as possible for these kids too,” she said.


As well as benefitting the YMCA and athletes involved, the tournament, like others hosted at the facility, also had an impact on the Fremont economy with more than 100 families visiting the community to stay, shop and eat.

According to Amanda Buzzell, a member of the Fremont Hockey Association Board, a 20-member hockey team staying for two days brings the community around $3,680, with a three-day, 18-team tournament bringing in close to $100,000.

“Sports tourism has become a force to recon with,” Fremont and Dodge County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Shannon Mullen said. “Communities throughout the U.S., and especially here in Nebraska, are vying to host sports-related tournaments as a means of boosting their economy, especially as we continue to fight the COVID crisis.”

Mullen said she’s also seen youth sports tourism continue to grow, especially in the Fremont community.

“Recreational teams steadily bring in more and more young athletes, club and elite level sports are on the increase,” she said. “With new clubs popping up in every sport, the need for more tournament locations and facilities continues to escalate.”

With the Fremont Family YMCA being able to host so many events, Mullen said surrounding communities are noticing its amenities.

“The Fremont and Dodge County CVB continues to promote Fremont as a sports destination at many national and regional conferences and trade shows and continues to strive to enhance the local economy by driving these events in our county,” she said. “It’s our mission to continue to grow this segment of tourism for our area.”

As well as helping the community, Wyle said last week’s tournament also helped the young athletes come together as a team and show camaraderie.

“They’re not only together on the ice, but they’re together off the ice as well, talking about things and hanging out and wanting to be around each other,” she said. “So the biggest thing is really that team mentality that comes out of it.”