The Yukon Hockey Championships kicked off Friday to Sunday with the atom division tournament featuring nine teams from across the territory.
The championship tournaments give the communities a chance to host large sports events with the tournaments for each age division held in different parts of the territory with Haines Junction hosting the atom tournament.
A total of nine teams participated in the event, said Krista Strand, who is the atom convenor for the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association.
She noted six of the participating teams were from Whitehorse Minor with three communities represented by teams from Dawson City, Watson Lake and the host Haines Junction.
The tournament was a major success, Strand said, thanks to the great hospitality of Haines Junction hosting the atom tournament for the second year in a row. And it also came with some eventful circumstances to make the tournament one to remember.
Most significantly, there is still no atom division winner. After round-robin play, four teams advanced to the semifinals with Save-On-Foods finishing in the top spot and taking on Dawson City. Whitehorse Dental took on Canadian Tire in the other semifinal.
Save-On-Foods and Whitehorse Dental, both teams from Whitehorse Minor, advanced to the gold-medal game.
Dawson City faced off against Canadian Tire in the bronze-medal game and won to take home a medal.
“It was very exciting to see the community make the playoffs and to win a medal because it’s hard when they don’t have the same ability to play games as the Whitehorse kids do,” Strand said.
That was the last game played in the tournament.
A very quick warmup leading to rain following a large dumping of snow in Haines Junction made driving conditions on the Alaska Highway very difficult forcing the Yukon Department of Highways and Public Works to close the roadway.
To not be stranded in Haines Junction on Sunday night, the tournament organizers decided to cancel the final game allowing all the Whitehorse participants to get home safely before the road was closed.
“For the safety of everybody they decided to call it then and get everybody home,” Strand said.
But since both teams scheduled to play in the final are from Whitehorse Minor, Strand sad she has contacted the tournament organizers to suggest trying to get ice time from Hockey Yukon in Whitehorse to be able to play the game and determine a winner.
Before the sudden end to the tournament, Strand said the players and teams had a great time with an opportunity to travel and play out of Whitehorse – something players that age and at the house league level don’t normally have a chance to do.
“I think it’s good for the kids, but also because you get the opportunity to feel what it’s like to have an away tournament, staying in a hotel and playing mini-sticks at the rink with your buddies,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen when you have stuff at Whitehorse because you go to your game and then you go home.
“It’s good for the community’s kids too to be able to host that tournament and have that opportunity. So it maybe is a lot of travelling for everybody else but I’ve never heard anybody complain and everybody seems to enjoy it.”
With three more hockey championships coming up in the next months, two more communities willhave their opportunity to host a territorial championship.
Watson Lake will host the novice division tournament at the beginning of February and the peewee championship will be in Dawson City Feb. 16-18.
Next up, the bantam championship will take place in Whitehorse Jan. 26-28.