The biggest annual oldtimers’ hockey tournament in town continues to be as popular as ever, attracting teams from many other communities.
This year, the Hay River Rusty Blades Oldtimers Tournament featured teams from five other communities for play from Feb. 5 to 7.
Jeff Boyce, the main organizer for the tournament, said two teams came from Fort Simpson, and others from Fort Smith and Yellowknife. There were even teams from High Level and Grand Prairie in Alberta.
They joined four teams from Hay River – the Rusty Blades Red, Blue, White and Black squads – for a total of 10, which is about the same number of teams each year at the event.
“We have a league of four teams, so we just put our regular league teams in playing in the tournament,” said Boyce.
On the other hand, visiting teams often are a collection of some better hockey oldtimers in the other communities.
“They’re bringing teams that are better than ours, generally, which is fine,” Boyce said, explaining it doesn’t really matter because the tournament is not about winning or losing.
“It’s all for fun,” he said. “We’re playing for a banner. We spent $45 on a banner that the winning team wins.”
This year, the banner was captured by a team from Grande Prairie – supplemented with some players from Hay River – which defeated Fort Smith in the championship game on the afternoon of Feb. 7. The final score was 9-6.
The Hay River Rusty Blades Red team made it one game from the final but was beaten by Fort Smith.
Duncan Cooke, one of the players with the Rusty Blades Red team, agreed that the tournament is not about where a team places, noting there are no standings kept for the event.
“It’s just to be here and have some fun, and play some hockey and get some exercise,” he said.
Cooke, who lived in Hay River for 16 years and now resides in Yellowknife, said the Hay River Oldtimers run one of the best oldtimers’ hockey tournaments that he has ever seen.
“I make this the highlight of my winter to come down here and play some hockey with some old friends,” he said.
Cooke noted the tournament is special because of the camaraderie among the players, and reiterated, “It’s just a lot of fun.”
The Hay River Rusty Blades Oldtimers Tournament has been held for many years.
“It’s got to be close to 20 years now,” said Boyce.
Like Cooke, he also enjoys the camaraderie of the tournament.
Oldtimers hockey is for players 35 years of age and older.