Hay River has won the latest skirmish in an ongoing rec hockey battle with Fort Providence.
The Hay River Huskies won 5-3 over the Fort Providence Bulls to win a rec hockey tournament held in Hay River from Nov. 22 to 24.
The teams had met the two previous years at the tournament, and Fort Providence emerged victorious both times.
“There’s always that competitive edge between the Huskies and the Bulls,” said tournament organizer Andre Chabot. “We’ve been playing each other for years and we’re all good friends off the ice, but there’s always that edge when we go head to head.”
Fort Providence player Michael Krutko agreed, adding that the rivalry goes back further than rec hockey league games.
“There’s been a rivalry for at least 10 years,” he told The Hub. “Even when we were kids, there was always a bit of a contest between Fort Prov and Hay River. We always seem to meet pretty well at the end.”
Krutko said he felt pretty confident going into the last game, especially with his team having won in the finals of the tournament against the Huskies two previous years.
“I think we’ve got a bit of an advantage,” he joked.
But overall, both sides said it was a good tournament with an impressive turnout of both players and spectators.
“It’s just been a good, well-rounded event,” said Krutko. “The hosts have been great, the hockey has been good, and we’ve had lots of fun at the dance and stuff, too.”
Chabot, who organizes both the Hay River Rec Hockey League and the tournament, said he was pleased with how many teams came out this year – six from out of town and four from Hay River. He also noted the number of fans for all teams who came out to watch the games.
“The rink has been packed almost the whole weekend,” he said. “I counted 100 people in this arena last night at 11 p.m. That’s pretty exciting for us as players to see a whole bunch of people come out to see us play in this tournament.”
As for the overall tone of the event, Chabot admitted that it could be tough to strike a balance between “letting the guys play” and keeping everyone safe.
“These guys have all played contact hockey, they want to play, and you want to see the refs let them play,” he said. “But, of course, you don’t want anybody getting hurt. The reffing has been really good throughout the whole tournament. We’re really grateful Yellowknife sent down two (refs) to help us out, too.”
Chabot said he and his team were feeling good heading into the final game, and that part of the plan was to try to stay out of the penalty box.
“Of course, you always try to do that,” he said. “But sometimes the emotions get the best of you.”
But in the end, he said it came down to having a good time and making sure the teams from away wanted to come back next year.
“It’s nice to see teams from Prov and Fort Smith come out for this,” Chabot said. “They’ve only really just got their ice and we’ve been playing for weeks. We really want to thank all the teams who come out and help make this tournament a success.”
– Sarah Ladik