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Wade Hamer Challenge Cup returns after two-year absence

It’s time for the biggest hockey game of the year in Yellowknife.
Mia MacInnis is thrilled as she hoists the Wade Hamer Challenge Cup girls trophy after Sir John Franklin’s win over St. Pat’s at the Multiplex in February 2020. Both of Sir John Franklin’s teams go into this year’s games as the defending champions. NNSL file photo

It’s time for the biggest hockey game of the year in Yellowknife.

Maybe you haven’t heard of it since it’s been hidden away for the better part of the last two years, but it’s the one game of the year neither Sir John Franklin High School nor St. Pat’s High School wants to lose.

It’s the Wade Hamer Challenge Cup, the longstanding hockey battle between the two high schools, and it takes place Wednesday at the Multiplex. The last time the games were played was February 2020 during the Hockey Day in Canada bonanza, one of the last events that happened before the world shut down because of Covid-19. In case you’ve forgotten, Sir John Franklin holds both the boys and girls titles.

Everything is back to its normal time slot on the calendar and not a moment too soon, according to Peter Curran, who’s helping oversee things on the Sir John Franklin side.

“I’m planning on using the pep rally to speak to the pressure of defending both titles,” he said. “Some years, we’ve had both, some years we’ve had none, but the last couple of times have been good.”

One thing Curran was afraid of was whether people would remember that the game even existed, considering it hasn’t happened for quite some time.

“I would say about 75 per cent of our student body and roughly 25 to 30 per cent of our staff have never experienced it,” he said. “You may get some people wondering what all the fuss is about because it doesn’t take long for people to forget about it. Luckily, our turnout for both teams has been great and I’m hearing the same over at St. Pat’s.”

That’s the same dilemma facing Rob Hart, who’s helping with the organizing at St. Pat’s. He said it was a bit of a chore explaining exactly why the games are a big deal.

“I would say about half of our staff have never experienced this and they didn’t exactly get it at first,” he said. “Trying to tell them that the entire day revolves around Challenge Cup was a bit tricky.”

The rules for the games differ a tiny bit from a routine hockey game. Instead of three periods, each game is played in two 20-minute stop time halves. There’s also no body-checking of any sort, though body contact is allowed.

Curran, who will be coaching the Sir John boys, said he’s ready to go out with a full complement up-front.

“We have four solid lines and I like what we have,” he said. “St. Pat’s has probably all of the real good defencemen, from what I’ve been told.”

That was news to Hart.

“I don’t know about that — I would say we’re pretty solid from front to back,” he said.

The girls rosters are bit more evenly spread out, according to Hart.

“That’s where I don’t think either team has an advantage,” he said. “Both schools have a lot of girls who tried out for Canada Winter Games, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that all plays out.”

The action is set to start at 1 p.m. with the girls game up first. The boys game will follow shortly after that — around 3 p.m., said Curran.

“Give or take a few minutes for each one,” he said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere, especially since we haven’t had this for a while.”

About the Author: James McCarthy

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