By Carter Brooks
Photo courtesy of Hockey Canada
Manitoba will host the National Women's Under-18 Championship for the first time in 2019, as the southern cities of Morden and Winkler will hold the annual spectacle next November.
This news is no huge surprise for Morden, who drew the attention of Hockey Canada following their successful hosting of the 2017 ESSO Cup for the national female midget championship a year-and-a-half ago. Winkler, however, has never hosted a national tournament of any sort, and this experience will be new for the city of nearly 13,000.
Although never hosting a national tournament, Winkler has put on various other large events including the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Viterra Men's Provincial Curling Championship, the Manitoba Games and Hockey Day in Canada. The community of Winkler will also be hosting Sportsnet's Hometown Hockey in early March.
Hometown Hockey will stop in Winkler from March 2nd to 3rd, before heading to Steinbach the following week, on March 9th to 10th. The Winnipeg jets will do battle with the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 3rd, before taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on March 10th. Feature stories showcasing the culture and hockey heritage of both Winkler and Steinbach will be put fully on display throughout the early March Sunday broadcasts.
Over the years, the National Women's Under-18 Championship has averaged roughly $1.5 million in income for the host area. Those proceeds go directly to those local initiatives helping grow the game of hockey in the host regions. Manitoba has never won the tournament, while currently holds two silver medals and three third-place finishes.
The tournament typically serves as a stepping stone for the Canadian National Women's Team, and positions are expected open for the next Winter Olympics. It would not be a surprise to see many of the faces from the U-18 tournament on the Canadian National Women's Team for Beijing 2022.