The Eastern Eagles Soccer Association is excited to present its 28th annual tournament with as many as 84 teams signed up to play this weekend.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to COVID but spirits are high among the many organizers volunteering to put on a first class event this year.
Divisions will include U11, U13, U15 and U18s with about 20 teams from out of province, mostly New Brunswick. Fredericton, Moncton, Riverview, Dieppe, the Fundy region and Halifax and others will be represented on the pitches.
Tournament director Lori Lund said all divisions will have multiple tiers but U11 and U13 have more teams registered than the older age groups.
Ms Lund said it’s one of two soccer tournaments on the Island this summer and the only one with off-Island teams. The other is Central Queens.
She believes this will be the first major sports tournament on the Island since the start of the pandemic, not counting the Canadian Premier Soccer League’s 2020 season which was played in a bubble with no spectators.
“We’re ready to rock it. We wanted to take on the challenge. It’s a joint effort, we take great pride in it and we’re excited to be the ones to do it.”
She stressed tournament organizers have worked diligently with the Chief Public Health Office to ensure a safe tournament with all necessary protocols in place.
It’s believed the CPHO will allow a cohort of 200 people per field, which would include on-field players, coaches and officials. Extra portapotties were brought in to help keep cohorts separated as much as possible.
Off-Island players aged 12 and up are required to have at least one vaccine dose and a PEI pass to travel without isolating for eight days.
Ms Lund said it was critically important to host the tournament this year for financial reasons. The soccer facility is independently owned and maintained and this tournament is their biggest fundraiser. It will be one of the biggest tournaments they’ve run, using both the soccer complex and the high school field.
“I believe, and so does (facility director) Cory Deagle, that we are one of the single biggest revenue generators for the (community) of Montague. It’s going to be a great tourism boost and great for the community.”
Ms Lund hopes playing in the tournament will help the kids get back to some sense of normalcy as well.
She’s grateful to local businesses for sponsoring divisions, which costs $400, and is still looking for a few more. The proceeds go to the soccer complex to help it remain what she called one of the best facilities in Atlantic Canada.
They’re also looking for donations of granola bars and bottled water for the volunteers.
Ms Lund said it takes 20 to 30 volunteers to help run the event and the associated barbecue, canteen, tents and parking, as well as new requirements such as cleaning the benches between games. Staff and board members will also be on site.
As for accommodations, most visitors will stay in Charlottetown due to the scarcity of hotel availability in the Montague area. Some will stay at the Brudenell River Resort and others at Lane’s Riverhouse Inn in Montague.
Mr Deagle played for the Eagles until he was 17 and is a long-time referee and coach. He said it takes about 50 referees to officiate the tournament. All are from PEI.
“It’s a good chance for a lot of the younger officials (as young as 14) to referee a few higher-level games and get some experience,” he said.
Along with the financial and tourism impacts of the tournament’s return, Mr Deagle said it can be hard to revive a tournament of this size after a year’s absence so it’s good news all around.
The Eagles program has developed many players who went on to compete at a higher level. That includes Katelyn Visser of Vernon River, who now plays at Dordt College in Iowa. Staff member Colin Curran and Braylan MacEachern play for UPEI, as will Mia Martell this fall. Zach and Brandon Lund previously played for Holland College and Daniel Martell plays there now.