The Hay River Heat lost to the HBC Diamondbacks from Yellowknife 12-1 in the final game of the 2013 Men’s Fast-Pitch Territorial Championships on July 21 in Hay River.
But as fierce rivals as the teams were on the ball diamond, they remain friends off the field.
Hay River Heat player Terry Webster said he has known the guys on the opposing teams from Yellowknife for years.
“We’ve all pretty much played against each other for years and we’re pretty good buddies,” he said before the first playoff game earlier in the day on July 21. “It’s good to get together once a year and see everyone and catch up.”
This is Webster’s first year back on the team and in the tournament after a three-year hiatus. He joked that the Heat had pulled a few guys out of retirement, while noting the need for younger players to sign up.
“We need more young guys coming out to play,” he said. “Otherwise we’ll just lose it. I got the itch back this year, but sometimes the brain wants to go fast, but the body won’t let you.”
But Hay River is indeed seeing a resurgence of interest in softball of both the fast and slo-pitch variety. Many of the players on the Heat have recently returned from the Under-21 Men’s International Softball Championship in Saskatoon where the team from the NWT placed ninth out of 12 teams from across Canada.
“I though we’d win a few more games and come in in the middle of the pack,” said Floyd Daniels, the team’s coach. “But it was good ball. It was a good experience for the boys from here and they had a good time. It was probably the best ball they’ve ever seen and played in their lives.”
Participating in the national tournament did mean many of the players on the Heat were tuned up and ready to go for the NWT championship, in which the team cruised into second place in the round robin, winning and losing two games, as did the Diamondbacks. Their second and third place rankings after that round were the result of the Heat winning head-to-head against the Yellowknife team, with both coming in after the Yellowknife Slades who went four and zero.
Although the winning team will go on to the Western Canadian Championship in Saskatoon in August, Glenn Smith, a Heat player and organizer of the weekend’s tournament, wasn’t bitter.
“Yellowknife has been good this year,” he said. “They could have made two really strong teams, but they decided to send four, because they get that more teams makes for a much better event.”
Smith said he had thought Inuvik would send a team as it has been competitive in the last few years, but in the end opted out.
“This tournament hasn’t been held in Hay River for seven years,” said Smith. “We’ve been in Yellowknife a lot. It’s good for the Hay River fans, too. They’re really enjoying it. We had a peak crowd of about 200 people here.”
— Sarah Ladik