The ice rink at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre may be closed and the ice removed but that didn’t stop the women’s hockey team from hosting its annual home tournament last weekend.
Hazard hockey just took the show on the road to Fort Resolution, where the Hay River team finished second in the finals after the team from High Level, Alta. Organizer Shelley Maher said that while three teams dropped out as a result of the uncertainty around the municipal strike and the change of location, the Alberta team and Fort Smith still made it out and made the tournament a success.
“People were really excited. It was supposed to be cancelled, and then the Tuesday before we decided to go ahead after all,” Maher told The Hub. “We were the clear underdogs but it was still really fun for us.”
After two days of double round robin, Hazard finished third after the Fort Smith Fury and High Level IDA but battled back in the finals to beat Fort Smith 5-4 in sudden death overtime. Kim Rapati, Mathilde Van Herreveld, Layne Leonard, Tina Hendrickson and Winter Haley scored goals in the last game.
“We were all a little rusty but by the end we were really playing as a team,” said Rapati. “People who don’t normally score, like me and Mathilde, both scored and that was really exciting for us.”
Rapati said last week’s tournament was her favourite ever and that more than anything she appreciated the hospitality in Fort Resolution and the chance to get to know players from other towns.
“We had to ride the bus to get there every morning with the High Level team and it was really great to meet them and hang out like that,” she said. “Women’s hockey tournaments are always more about being friendly and having fun but this was really something else.”
Most notable for Maher was that team felt the home game experience even far from home.
“I had no idea how many of our players have family in Res,” she said. “They all came out to cheer for us and it was just really welcoming.”
Two Fort Resolution players also joined the ranks of the Hazard team for the weekend, allowing them to play full games. Rapati said she heard one of them hadn’t played in 10 years but was still game to lace up the boots and get out on the ice.
“The biggest thing was the hospitality Fort Res showed us,” said Maher. “Their ice was amazing and they really went out of their way to make it cool for us.”