Burnaby, B.C. – One can say hockey runs in the veins of RoyEl Caswell.
Now a regional scout for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Kamloops Blazers, Caswell, who was born and raised in North Burnaby, competed in the Burnaby Bantam Hockey Jamboree in 1977 and 1978 – the annual holiday season tournament that started in 1962 and became the Pat Quinn Classic in 2015.
“It was the biggest tournament around in those days,” says Caswell. “We saved our money and the excitement for the year was the annual Christmas tournament in Burnaby.” He recalls playing many games throughout the 1970s in the Burnaby Lake Arena, one of the venues for this year’s Pat Quinn Classic.
Caswell now lives in Chilliwack, but says his “roots remain in Burnaby,” adding the city and “the tournament will always have a big spot in my life.”
After two years of scouting new players primarily through video because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Caswell says it is great to be back at tournaments in person. “It’s not the same watching players on a computer screen. It’s nice to have the interaction again, hear the noise, smell the rink, and see the people.”
When looking at the important qualities of a player, it all comes down to hockey sense. “As a Western Hockey League scout, generally speaking, we look at skating ability and how hard the player competes both with and without the puck,” explains Caswell.
Since 2015, 170 Pat Quinn Classic players have been drafted to the WHL.
Summing up his thoughts about the importance of hockey in Burnaby, Caswell says “this is where I started. There’s a lot of loyalty and a lot of love for the Burnaby Minor Hockey Association. It’s great to come back.”
This year’s Pat Quinn Classic features 41 teams including six from Washington, California and Arizona. The Bill Copeland Sports Centre, in the Burnaby Sport Park, is the feature rink for the tournament. Other venues include Burnaby Lake Arena, Burnaby Winter Club, Kensington Arena, Scotia Barn and Planet Ice Coquitlam.
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BACKGROUNDER – THE PAT QUINN CLASSIC
The Burnaby Minor Hockey Association began hosting the annual December Bantam hockey tournament in 1962. It is now the longest-running event of its kind in the world. The tournament became the Pat Quinn Classic in 2015, named after the legendary player, coach, general manager and team owner. Pat Quinn is internationally-recognized as one of the hockey’s greatest coaches and ambassadors. Proceeds go to the Pat Quinn Scholarship Fund. Managed by Hockey Canada, the fund supports players in post-secondary education after their hockey careers. Quinn is one of the most recognizable faces in Canadian sport and has made an enormous contribution to sport in British Columbia and Canada.
The objective of the Pat Quinn Classic is to create a top international-calibre tournament in Western Canada to showcase local teams alongside some of the strongest programs in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Organizers worked with the Quinn family to create a unique tournament that strikes the right balance between exciting hockey, skill and leadership development and community engagement. Pat motivated players at all levels to work hard on the ice and live with passion and integrity off the ice. The vision of this tournament exemplifies his love of hockey and his unwavering commitment to give back to the community.
After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pat Quinn Classic returns for a sixth edition in December 2022.