A tournament for Midget hockey teams was held in Hay River in late November.
And even though just three teams participated, it was still an improvement over last year when the tournament was not held because no out-of-town teams made the trip to Hay River.
“Last year, they couldn’t get anyone to come. So they didn’t even have a Midget tournament,” said Pennie Pokiak, president of Hay River Minor Hockey, who organized this year’s tournament as director for the Midget division. “This year, we had one team from Fort Smith and one team from Yellowknife travel.”
Pokiak explained it is tough to find teams of Midget players – who are aged 15-17 years – willing to travel, especially since most teams in northern Alberta play in the All Peace Hockey League.
“They really have games scheduled every weekend and it’s hard for them to travel because they’re already travelling on the weekends to play in this All Peace League,” she said.
Pokiak noted that, while the All Peace Hockey League has been around for years, more and more associations are joining it.
“So the impact is definitely being felt,” she said.
It even is becoming more difficult to find tournaments in northern Alberta where NWT teams might play.
The All Peace Hockey League also meant fewer teams for a Bantam tournament in Hay River earlier in November.
Pokiak said she was happy a Midget tournament took place in Hay River this year.
“We took advantage of it and we made sure we got in lots of games so that everybody got to play. It was lots of hockey, but it was good,” she said.
The tournament was held on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, and each team played four games on the first day, followed by playoffs on the final day.
“To play four games in one day is definitely not normal,” said Pokiak. “That’s a lot of hockey, but I think the kids had fun. They all persevered. All in all, it was a great weekend.”
The Yellowknife Crunchers won the tournament by edging the Hay River Huskies 3-2 in the final game.
“It was a close game,” said Pokiak. “It was a nail-biter.”
She contacted a number of communities about sending teams – Fort Providence, Fort Simpson and even Inuvik – but none decided to participate. Two communities in Alberta had expressed some interest, before deciding not to attend.
“I really feel like I pulled out all the stops and tried to get people,” said Pokiak.