We recently had the opportunity to sit down with James Hanlon, the founder of the annual Oktoberfest Tournament in Germany. We asked him a few questions about his tournament, which sounds like an incredible experience. Check it out below and you'll definitely want to be attending.
- When and why did the Oktoberfest Tour start?
We started seven years ago in 2010. I created this tour for numerous reasons. I had managed minor hockey tours to and from Europe/Asia full-time for 10 years at that point. Because of this, many parents would ask me about old-timers options. But with most teams being only 10-12 guys, from a business perspective, it didn't make too much sense. However, by creating my own tournament and event, I could market to multiple teams and ensure the product was good. Then I needed a location and a 'draw' that would entice people to come. Because I played in Germany, spoke German and knew the lay of the land around Oktoberfest, I thought it was the perfect fit.
- What makes this event so special?
Oktoberfest is a bucket list event especially for my target market of guys between 40 and 70. Most of the participants rave about the atmosphere and sheer amount of people and beer. Not only that, but I organize everything into a package so they pretty much just have to register and pay. We combine accommodations, hockey, sightseeing, reservations, coordinators, bus transportation, logistics, tournament schedules and anything else that teams need. It is not the cheapest old-timers hockey trip in the world but I would definitely argue it is the best. It has built-in world class atmosphere combined with fun oldtimers hockey and the best beer in the world.
- It sounds as if this tournament could create lifelong memories; does anything stand out from the tournament in past years?
There are too many! Our first arena we used had big glass windows behind the net so when the sun was setting, the goalies couldn't see the puck. We also had a team from New York one year who passed around Patron tequila before every game (they didn't do so well). Another year, one of the Ottawa guys somehow talked the band, at our Oktoberfest tent, into letting him sing a few songs with them - there was about 8000 people in the tent and he took the lead on the microphone for two songs much to the delight of our group.
- Is this a competitive tournament or more of a fun, social tournament?
Definitely fun and social. We have a mix of strong players and weaker players like any pick up hockey in Canada, and we get different levels of German teams every year too. So we make sure guys can still compete and sweat but that the results don't matter so much. We accept all ages and levels, individuals and teams. We also ensure that games with Canadians vs. Canadians are limited so that everyone plays some of the German or Euro teams.
- If hockey players are trying to decide between overseas tournaments, why should they choose the Oktoberfest Tour?
Firstly, nothing compares to Oktoberfest in Munich for an old-timers hockey weekend locale. I tell people all the time that if you can't have fun there, you can't have fun anywhere. Secondly, many old-timers groups have difficulty getting guys committed, firming up prices for hotels and/or figuring out who to play and how to get around. Guys are busy and have jobs and families. With our tour it is simple. You just register and pay and we take care of the rest. We have also worked out our the kinks from the first few years. We now have a viable program that works for everyone with better facilities, better German competition and a mix of small town Bad Tolz and big city Munich. Also, we are a registered travel agency in Canada, we have a track record of success and we follow through on our service.
- Is there anything else we should know?
Take a chance and be IN. There will always be a reason not to go - money, family, work. But life is short and this tour is a tonne of fun for five days! We have had teams in the past from Ottawa, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Toronto, New York and even though they scratched it off their bucket list, many return every year.
For more information on the Oktoberfest Tour, click here.