Play is underway for the massive 24-team Yelnats Cup midget hockey tournament at the SLS Centre.

Why Yelnats? It's Stanley spelted backward and it's a unique tournament that celebrates the end of many players' years in minor hockey.

Once again, it's a sold-out affair and a popular destination for U18 teams wrapping up their season. All 24 teams played their first game yesterday, and they're back on the ice today in a packed schedule that wraps up at 9:45 p.m. It goes even longer tomorrow. The finals are on Sunday for all three cups on the line.

A huge crowd is expected in Totem One for the skills competition starting at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday that involves all 24 teams, says chair Angela Sellwood. There are competitions for fastest skater, hardest shot, shootout competition (for both goalies and players), and a goalie relay.

That time slot is where three scholarships will also be presented; two for $1,250, and one for $2,500.

Even if you don't get to raise one of the three Yelnats Cups on the line, the final game of every graduating player is made special. They are called on to the ice after their last game to be recognized and presented with a keepsake of their minor hockey journey.

The tournament began as a modest eight-team tournament in 2000 and quickly grew to 24.

There are tier 3, 5 (nonchecking), and female B teams participating. Tiers played are determined each year by where Cochrane has teams. Four teams form both the tier 3 and female B pools, and 16 are in the tier 5 pool.

Six Cochrane teams are in the tournament.