And so we approach another Easter. In times gone by, we would be preparing ourselves for the festive treat that is the Rec Hockey Tournament.

That hasn’t happened for the past two years because of Covid-19. You can say what you want and you probably know how I feel about that. This year, though, it’s a whole new ball game. There are no more restrictions on masks in facilities, no more gathering limits, no anything. For the first time in more than two years, we can actually go somewhere and not have someone give us a dirty look because we had the nerve to not sport some sort of nose-and-mouth garb (many probably still will because that’s how some people work in this town).

So that means we can have the Rec Hockey Tournament, right? Wrong. It probably won’t be happening. In fact, I’m willing to wager good money that we won’t see anything resembling it for a while and it’s not because of Covid-19. Sure, you can blame the ‘rona for the last two years of cancellations but not this year, kids. There are a couple of reasons and here’s the first: not enough officials. This was actually confirmed to me by a member of the Yk Rec Hockey League’s executive — simply not enough bodies to ensure games can happen. Now, I can hear some of you saying they can simply fly in officials from Alberta or B.C., or maybe some folks from Nunavut would make the trip over. That won’t be happening simply because the cost would be so prohibitive, the tournament would lose its shirt.

Believe me — I’ve had to schedule and book travel and hotels for umpires in the past for softball tournaments. It isn’t cheap.

Yes, the league would have to eat the costs of flying in officials, putting them up in hotels and paying a per diem of some sort, not to mention game fees. I don’t know what the going rate is in places such as Alberta or B.C. at the present time but calculate a return flight from Edmonton to Yellowknife, four nights hotel accommodation, $100 per diem and roughly $60 per game (minimum eight games). All for one official. Now, multiply that sum by at least 12. You’ll find that’s a lot of ice capps.

Host a clinic, you say? Easier said than done. It wouldn’t be feasible to have a clinic right before a big tournament like this one and expect it to be successful. Even if you put those officials in the lower divisions, it wouldn’t be good. You have teams paying good money to come into Yellowknife for a weekend and the least you can do is give them officials who have some game experience. That’s not an insult to officials, it’s a matter of fact. I would never throw a fresh, new umpire to the wolves of a senior men’s fastball tournament without first making sure that that umpire had a few games under their shirt.

Here’s the second reason: probably no one has stepped forward to organize it. The two main organizers — Dave Earle and Dan Schofield — are no longer doing it. Schofield has retired to B.C. and Earle has most likely done his bit for Queen and country. Both men had been involved for as long as I’ve been living in this part of the world and I’ve seen the work that goes into making sure it went off as seamlessly as it appeared. We’re talking 40 teams across five divisions, scheduling games, securing the ice, getting the beer garden ready, confirming the officials, etc.

It isn’t a one-person job. Earle and Schofield had plenty of help over the years, but they were the main drivers behind getting everything in place. It isn’t something you throw together the week before — your planning for this begins as soon as the city releases its ice schedules for the season.

So that’s why I don’t think the Rec Hockey Tournament will be happening this year, or for the near future. I take no pleasure in saying it because no one wants to see this tournament happen more than I do. The Balsillie Cup oldtimers tournament is scheduled to take place in some fashion this year — I’ve been told around mid-April — so there’s that to look forward to.

As for the rec tournament, who knows? It’s all up to you, folks.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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  1. Well said James, I have been playing in this tournament since it’s inception and love it but it always falls on to few. Dave and Dan were incredible, they treated out of town teams awesome. Thank you Dave and Dan. Hopefully some people step up