A new era for the Wesmen Classic

Wesmen volleyball players Taylor Howe (right) and Logan Brennan (centre) open a gift from the men's basketball program, represented by Billy Yaworsky, as a ceremonial transition takes place to turn the Wesmen Classic into a men's volleyball tournament for 2017. (Tom Nicholson/Wesmen Athletics)
Wesmen volleyball players Taylor Howe (right) and Logan Brennan (centre) open a gift from the men's basketball program, represented by Billy Yaworsky, as a ceremonial transition takes place to turn the Wesmen Classic into a men's volleyball tournament for 2017. (Tom Nicholson/Wesmen Athletics)

The Wesmen Classic is getting a makeover for 2017.

For the first time in the 51-year-history of the annual holiday tournament, the Wesmen Classic will feature a sport other than basketball as the U of W welcomes eight of the top men's volleyball teams from around Canada, Dec. 28-30.

Five provinces are represented with five of the eight teams ranked among the top 11 in USports' latest national ranking released Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the eight teams who will descend on the Duckworth Centre this winter were unveiled, with the No. 7-ranked and tournament host Wesmen slotted in the Unruh Pool with the No. 10-ranked Manitoba Bisons, the Western Mustangs and New Brunswick Varsity Reds. The pool is named after former Wesmen athlete and coach, and Volleyball Manitoba Hall of Fame member, David Unruh.

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In the Burchuk Pool, the No. 4-ranked Brandon Bobcats are joined by the No. 6-ranked Laval Rouge et Or, No. 11 Ryerson Rams and the Regina Cougars. The pool is named in honour of former Wesmen women's coach Mike Burchuk, who established himself as one of the greatest coaches in Canadian volleyball before eventually being inducted into the Volleyball Manitoba Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

Two courts will be utilized for all matches on Dec. 28 and 29, as well as semifinals, consolation semifinals and placement matches on Dec. 30. Both the third-place final and championship final will be showcased on centre court at the Dr. David F. Anderson Gymnasium.

A tournament pass can be purchased for $25. Children 12 and under, and U of W students get in free.

The Classic will also serve as a reunion of a number of distinguished alumni in the long, storied history of the Wesmen volleyball program.

Our guest of honour will be former team captain Dennis Nord, who led U of W to its first national championship in 1967-68. Nord, a former national team coach who is a member of the Volleyball Manitoba Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 for his years of service to the game in our province and country.

Basketball will still have a part to play in this year's celebrations, with the U of W maintaining a 16-team JV boys bracket that kicks off Friday, Dec. 8 and continues on Saturday. The U of W will showcase the championship final as a standalone event on Dec. 27.

A day pass to the JV tournament will cost $3 with athletes participating in the JV tournament also getting into the volleyball tournament for free.

Secured underground parking is available to fans for $4 a day at the Axworthy Health and RecPlex adjacent to Duckworth Centre.