An old timers’ hockey tournament has returned to Hay River after an absence of two years.
The Feb. 1 to 3 tournament was hosted by the Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey Club.
Owen Rowe, the captain of the Nahanni Inn Flyers, said the team had just nine players – including two picked up for the tournament from Hay River and one from Yellowknife.
“We were the shortest numbers as far as players, but when you have a team that gets along and enjoys playing with one another, it was good,” he said.
“We had great goaltending, and a couple of guys that definitely picked it up for us. All in all, it was a great tournament. I mean nine guys worked together cohesively and coherently and we had a goaltender that stood on his head.”
Rowe, who is originally from Hay River, said he thought the Flyers had a chance going into the tournament despite their low numbers.
“I thought we’d be quite competitive,” he said. “And anybody can win.”
The Flyers beat J&A Fire Prevention of Yellowknife in the championship game.
“They scored in the last minute of the game actually to win 3-2,” noted Jeff Boyce, president of the Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey Club.
Boyce said there was a good turnout of 12 teams for the tournament.
“We had four teams from Hay River, so the other eight were from out of town,” he said, adding that meant there were about 150 players, including 100 from other communities.
The tournament was not held in Hay River in 2017 and 2018 as the old rec centre was demolished and the new one built.
Boyce noted there were also 12 teams for the 2016 tournament.
“We have lots of interest every year,” he said. “I don’t even have to advertise. Teams basically call me. At one point in January I had a waiting list.”
In fact, Boyce noted that a couple of out-of-town teams had to be turned away.
“We don’t have the capacity for it,” he said. “Twelve is max you can go, unless you want to play into the late, late hours of the evening.”
Boyce noted that next year’s tournament will be special because it is believed that it will be 40 years since the formation of the Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey Club.
It is not so certain if the tournament will be 40 years old, he said, adding with a laugh, “If it’s not, we’re going to make next year our 40th.”