Willie McSwain was surprised his team made the finals this year.
“We’ve been coming to this tournament for 10 years at least,” the Summit Air player from Yellowknife told The Hub last Sunday. “And for some reason, we’re doing really good this year.”
Unfortunately for McSwain and his team, they weren’t quite good enough to beat the High Level, Alta.., team in the A finals, where they lost 4 to 1, but he said they had a great time anyway.
“We always have a good time with you guys,” he said. “It’s all about getting out on the ice and having fun.”
That sentiment is carried through the rest of the Hay River Rusty Blades annual tournament as well, according to organizer Jeff Boyce. He said the Hay River teams played the polite hosts and let the out-of-town teams take most of the top spots.
While Hay River Blue beat out Hay River Red in the D final, Fort Simpson got past Hay River Black in the C final, winning 6 to 4. The B final went to Fort Smith over Hay River White, with a tight 2 to 1 final score.
“It’s an awesome tournament,” said Boyce. “We had a great turnout, even though there were only eight teams, compared to 12 last year.”
He said numbers are down everywhere but that the spirit of the annual weekend-long event remains the same.
“We’re all just playing for a freakin’ banner,” he said. “There’s no prize money, nothing. Just that banner.”
As for the Hay River teams’ performances, Boyce laughed and said the main goal is to help the other teams enjoy themselves and want to come back next year.
“We’re all just here to have a good time,” he said. “The restaurants are full, the hotels are full, the Atoms raised close to $2,000 over the weekend, and we had a sold-out dance last night. We’re friends with a lot of the guys who come out for it, we’ve played together for so many years. You can leave it on the ice and just have a good time for the rest of the time.”
Boyce also noted that off the ice, his team was unbeatable.
“It’s just a well-oiled, well-fuelled volunteer machine,” he said. “I want to thank all the guys for giving me a hand. You need 10 or 12 guys stepping up to make this happen, and they always do.”