WESTLOCK – They came from near and far, but all who once played hockey in Westlock, took to the ice for the very first Home Time Hockey Tournament March 17-19 at the Rotary Spirit Centre (RSC).
The tournament, which was run by the Westlock Rotary Club, was the brainchild of current co-president Todd Ducharme, who modeled the event on similar one from his hometown of Fort Macleod.
Looking back on the weekend, Ducharme couldn’t have been happier as it not only brought the community together, but “brought people from outside the community back home to have some fun and raise some funds.” All proceeds from the tournament will be going to the maintenance and improvement of the Rotary Trail and as of press time, the amount raised was not yet finalized, but it appears to have been very successful.
In total, 121 players, including four women, over the age of 25 as of Jan. 1, took to the ice and were divided equally into eight teams — Martin Deerline, Westlock Terminals, Westlock Motors, Westlock Ford, PT Law, Total Plumbing & Heating, Westlock Powersports & Marine, and Brown’s Chrysler. Two were former local professional hockey players, Ross Smith who toiled in the IHL and WHA and had a memorable speaking part in the movie Slap Shot, and Kyle Chipchura, the captain of Team Canada which won gold at the 2006 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, who was selected 18th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens and played 482 in games in NHL on three different teams and finished his pro career playing in the KHL.
“To have such a wide variety of people take part really was one of the rewarding parts,” said Ducharme, who also competed in the event as did his sons Brady and Colby, who also helped to organize it.
“To have grandparents in the stands watching and fathers and sons playing together, that part was really nice. Hockey was the common denominator that brought people together, but the camaraderie of the teams gelled really quickly.
“We had people on the organizing committee that were 30 years old and we had some that were just over 60 … everyone pitched in and it came together so nicely. A lot of people did a lot of work to make this weekend such a success.”
Games were three periods of 15 minutes, non-stop time, with a five-minute break between periods. Each team played one game Friday evening, then two more on Saturday — later that night a supper and dance was held at the Westlock & District Community Hall, along with a live auction. The action throughout the weekend was quite fast, with some very exciting hockey that was enjoyed by many parents, family, and friends who turned out to watch. For the record, Terminals took the ‘A’ title with an 8-6 shootout win over Brown’s Chrysler, while Total Plumbing & Heating claimed the ‘B’ with a 4-1 win over Westlock Powersports & Marine, PT Law downed Westlock Ford 8-1 for the ‘C’ title and Westlock Motors claimed the ‘D’ with a 9-4 win over Martin Deerline. Meanwhile, off the ice, the big winner of the weekend was Pauline Kerckhof of Barrhead who won the 50-50 jackpot of $9,550.
“The speed of play was maybe a little quicker than what I thought it would be,” Ducharme added with a chuckle.
And while Ducharme has not committed to the event returning next year, “there’s some momentum” and “the architecture” to run it again as “98 per cent of the event went well.”
“There were people in the stands I talked to who said they should have played,” he said.
Former hockey mom Debra Dubrule called the weekend “fantastic” saying she got to the see 'kids' that had played hockey with her son and the parents she hadn't seen in a while and relive the “big wins” and “unfortunate losses.”
“It was wonderful to see people lined up around the railing and so many seats filled. I knew people on every team so I was able to cheer for everyone! I loved the range of ages of the players and how well they blended. And enjoying a post-game, arena burger with my son brought back terrific memories too,” she said.
“There was laughter and smiles, teamwork and sportsmanship and handshakes and hugs. The organizers are to be commended for thinking of everything as it was the best weekend I've had in a while.”
• With files from George Blais