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Membertou First Nation hosts Telus Cup after years-long wait

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The puck is dropped on the 2024 Telus Cup on Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton.

What many of the teenaged players in the national Under-18 hockey championship might not know is how long it took for the event to happen.

"I know, it's hard to believe it's finally here. It's been a long time coming,” said Paul Carroll, general manager of the Membertou Sport & Wellness Centre and a member of the tournament host committee.

It was nearly five years ago - all the way back in July 2019 - when it was first announced that Membertou would host the Telus Cup.

It was initially intended for 2021, but then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

Membertou’s hosting rights were then put off to 2022, but that spring the tournament was hosted in Alberta instead amid concerns about the Omicron wave in the Maritimes – with the promise that Membertou would get its turn to host in a future year.

That chance has finally come.

"It's great, it's a beautiful arena. I'm originally from Sydney, so it's like coming home,” said Theresa Andrews, whose son Derek plays for the Kensington Wild of Prince Edward Island. They qualified for the Telus Cup as Atlantic champions. Her older son, Brent Andrews, was a member of the Halifax Mooseheads when they won the 2013 Memorial Cup.

Monday’s opening game saw the P.E.I. squad drop a close 7-6 decision to Ontario's Markham Waxers.

Still, fans from “the other Island” were having a good time.

"We're pretty proud of them to be here, and I hope that they show P.E.I. well and proud,” Andrews said.

Getting to host the Telus Cup in Membertou may have turned into a years-long wait, but it could be argued the timing actually couldn't have been better.

The island's other hockey team - the Cape Breton Eagles of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League - are on a playoff run in front of sold-out crowds.

In March, Sydney hosted Team Canada's gold medal win at the World Women's Curling Championship.

Restaurants and hotels that have seen an increase in revenues from all the buzz around town hope to keep the momentum going.

"It went up 30 per cent for that time of year, which is a fantastic boost,” said Ardon Mofford, owner of Governor’s Pub & Eatery in Sydney, of the curling crowds. "The sales have been fantastic. When the Eagles are in town and they have a sold-out house, we're busy before the game. We're busy after the game. And with the Telus Cup, we're looking for the same kind of impact."

Tournament organizers say that so far ticket sales are ahead of schedule.

"(The momentum) just keeps feeding, and I think it's going to help this event be even bigger and better than we had hoped,” Carroll said.

The host Sydney Mitsubishi Rush were set to play their first game of the Telus Cup Monday evening against the Calgary Buffaloes.

The championship game is scheduled for April 28.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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