Billed as one of the largest girls’ hockey tournaments in Ontario, nearly 2,500 players, coaches and team officials have descended on Windsor and rinks across town for the fifth annual Hocktoberfest tournament.

Nearly every hotel room in the city is occupied and restaurants are doing a great business as the tournament has emerged as a promotional effort for the city aside from just being a sporting event, said tournament chairwoman Melissa Compton.

“We hope to really see the economic impact of what we are doing,” she said, noting of 86 teams involved, only 11 are from Windsor.

“All the rest are from out-of-town, so that’s a huge impression being made on Windsor. All of the hotels are full. So far, teams are loving it.”

Hocktoberfest is being staged at five different arenas and 11 ice pads, including WFCU Centre, South Windsor Arena, Forest Glade Arena, Windsor Arena and in Tecumseh. Teams have travelled to Windsor from across Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

Among the arena gatherings, was the Ancaster Avalanche – a Bantam A team of girls ages 13 and 14.

Dad Aldo Muraca noted his family has been staying at the crowded Hampton Suites since Thursday night in order to get up for his daughter Victoria’s early initial game on Friday. As of Saturday before noon, the team had already played three games, winning two.

“For sure it’s one of the better tournaments and well-run,” he said. “They give you food and really have a lot of stuff for the kids. The girls are really having fun and bonding.”

Catherine Cipolla, a 14-year-old defenceman for the Ancaster team, noted how the players really enjoy coming to the Windsor event.

“It’s different, there is tons of stuff to do,” she said. “You also really get a chance for girls to get to know girls from the other teams.”

Perhaps different from a typical youth hockey tournament, at the WFCU Centre on Saturday there were vendors available selling headbands, jewellery and scented candles.There was face painting and clowns making balloon animals.

“We have tried to make this more a festival atmosphere and celebration of women’s hockey,” said Catherine Murphy, the tournament’s director of public relations. “The games are important and we have scouts here looking for scholarship potential, but it is also a real celebration.”

“It’s a different game for girls, they learn a lot of life skills. There is camaraderie, friendship and team building that’s really encouraged. We want everything to be positive and Hocktoberfest helps to do that.”