The High Level Chevy Cruisers defeated Yellowknife 5-3 in the championship.
This year, for the first time, the tournament received major sponsorship from a Northern mining company, which brought registration costs down.
“We wanted to push this to hopefully get more events sponsored in Hay River,” said representative and mine site administrator Bridgette Dumas, from sponsor Rio Tinto/Diavik. “It depends on turnout and how worthwhile an event it is. To make sure events are worthwhile to sponsor they go through a committee.”
Overall the tournament was successful, said organizers, even though it had to compete with the Arctic Winter Games and another community’s winter carnival. For these reasons, Fort Simpson and Fort Smith teams were unable to attend.
Still, stands were filled with fans on getting ready to cheer on their team in game one Friday night. Nancy Stanly has been league treasurer for five years and said the Hay River team is thankful for its many local sponsors, but could definitely benefit from increased sponsorship, especially since ice rentals have increased significantly over the years.
Greg Rowe coached the younger Hay River Princess Cuts – the other team formed mainly by talent from the parent Hay River Hazards hockey club – said while the team wasn’t able to make it to finals it wasn’t due to lack of effort.
“They really showed their determination,” said Rowe. “One third of the team is made up of younger players and they’re a little more timid. You have to have that drive. When you have a chance at the goal you have to go for it and you can’t get muscled out of it.”
Rowe, who has been coaching minor hockey for 20-plus years, said his players generally took well to instruction and were very willing and eager to learn and improve. He said the league could benefit from prime ice time and regular coaching. Currently its practices are late at night.
Marc Miltenberger and Pat Maher coached the Goal Miners.
“It was all about coming together as a team,” said Miltenberger. “There was is a lot of experience on the team and used that experience to their advantage.”
Winter Haley, who is one of the directors for the Hazards hockey team, has been playing since the women’s league began seven years ago. She said that while some players are getting more experienced it’s important to keep the league open to beginners and girls aged 14 and up.
“It’s not competitive hockey; it’s fair-play hockey,” said Haley. “Our tournaments keep getting better and it’s that camaraderie that keeps people interested.”
The Hazards have already travelled to a tournament in Fort Smith and will be hitting up two more tournaments in Hay River and Edmonton before the end of the month.