For the first time in almost 20 years, Hay River will be hosting a recreation volleyball tournament late this month.
Eddie Smith, who will be playing in the April 28 to 30 tournament, said it’s been a long time since such a tournament has been held in town, and he has been playing the sport for over 25 years since he was in high school.
“I think the last one that I was in here was probably ’98,” he said.
The new tournament – called the Spring Smash Up – is being organized by the Hay River Rec Volleyball Association.
Ashley McKay, the president of the association, said people just kept asking her about organizing a tournament.
“And I’m like, ‘OK, well, if you guys are committed to helping me organize it, then I’ll get it going,'” she said, adding there are seven people in all organizing the event.
As of April 7, six teams have registered.
“One is from Yellowknife and the rest are from here,” said McKay.
She is hoping for eight teams.
“We can only take eight,” she explained. “That’s the limit. We can’t do any more, unfortunately.”
That’s because of the limited availability of gym time at Princess Alexandra School.
Each participating team must contain four men and two women, and they will be guaranteed four games.
The registration fee of $400 per team will mostly be returned to the top three teams – $1,500 for first, $800 for second and $400 for third.
“Basically, we’re paying pretty much out everything that is included in the registration fee, besides the rental because we pay the school for gym use now,” said McKay. “So I take that out of there and the rest of it will just be prize money.”
The registration deadline for the tournament is April 19.
The first eight teams to pay the registration fee will be accepted.
“I don’t want people coming and saying, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to put in a team’, and then the week of the tournament they don’t show up or don’t pay registration,” said McKay. “I’m just trying to get teams committed to playing.”
As of last week, she was expecting possibly two teams from Yellowknife and hoping for a team from Fort Smith.
Eddie Smith is happy to see the return of a rec volleyball tournament.
“It’s definitely exciting, especially if we can get some teams from out of town,” he said.
The Hay River event will be the third recreation volleyball tournament in the South Slave this year. There was one in Fort Smith in February and another in Fort Resolution in March.
McKay is hoping Spring Smash Up will become an annual event.
Volleyball has seen a revival in Hay River in recent years.
McKay and some others restarted the association and a league several years ago.
“This year, we had eight teams and each team is usually about 10 people,” she said. “So I guess 80 people.”
The teams play at Princess Alexandra School on Monday and Tuesday nights.
The league, which recently completed its playoffs, is for players 16 years of age and up, and this year even included a high school team.
Volleyball also may have had an extra boost in popularity this year because of the absence of an indoor ice surface and curling rink because of the ongoing reconstruction of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
“I think it picked up this year because of no rec centre,” said McKay. “We actually had even guys that usually play hockey come out and play.”
Last year, the league started off with eight teams and ended up with six.
“So it kind of died off after Christmas last year,” said McKay.
However, that didn’t happen this year.
McKay hopes that new players this year will return next season even after the new rec centre is opened.
“Both years we actually had a lot of people interested in playing,” she said of the past two seasons.
However, the association is so limited in its available gym time that it can only accept eight teams to its league.
McKay actually estimated that there was enough interest to have had three or four more teams in the league this year.
Even though she is a player herself, McKay said she can’t really say for sure what attracts others to volleyball.
“For me, I just enjoy it,” she said. “It’s just really fun.”