On Friday, 70 teams arrived in Erie for an annual girls hockey tournament, which is estimated to bring a $2 million economic impact to the region.

Families with girls ages 9 to 19 have traveled to across the country to compete this weekend.

The 29th annual Sarah Backstrom Memorial Tournament is taking place at a five ice centers this weekend; operated by Lake Effect Hockey, a local company. It’s one of the longest running and largest all-girls tournaments in the U.S. with about 70 teams. The event honors former Erie Lady Lion hockey player, Sarah Backstrom, who passed away from leukemia in 1999.

“I took this over five years ago. It had dropped down to about four teams, and we’ve built it back up to about 70 each in the last two years,” said Jason Fowler, the tournament organizer.

Jason Fowler, the tournament organizer, said the past couple of days have been difficult, but this weekend will be rewarding and amazing exposure for the girls.

“The thing about hockey is that it’s somewhat of a chauvinist sport as much as I hate to say it. Girls have taken the back seat in a lot of different markets,” Fowler said. “A lot of girls have to travel far and wide for a tournament. For us being where we are, mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes Region, our draw is exceptional compared to other tournaments.”

One team from Ontario is back to compete for the first time since 2020.

“Not many of the girls get the opportunity to play the U.S. teams. We just play teams from Ontario. So, it’s good, it gives them a good sense of what the hockey skill level is like down here,” said Jim Sendall, Coach for the North Durham Blades.

The organizer of the event is inspired by this new generation of girls as they show determination and resiliency for this amazing cause.

“Always have fun and know the meaning of this tournament. Just have fun with your teammates,” said Elyse Brown, a North Durham Blades Player.

“It feels amazing to know were helping out,” said Amanda North, a fellow Durham Blades Player.

“I did not know the family before taking it over, which since have become very close. They’ve recently suffered another tragedy in the family with the passing of the sister Laurie. So, this weekend takes on extra special meaning I guess,” Fowler said.

Over the next four days, there will be over 150 games to crown a champion in nine different age groups.