Reunion is a big part of the holiday season. Not just with family, loved ones and friends you may not have seen for a while, but also longtime teammates who you grew up with.
These reunions were on full display Saturday evening at Takhini Arena at the second annual charity hockey game between the All Out Hockey/Whitehorse Mustangs alumni and the Whitehorse Huskies.
On the training program side, young athletes returned home for the holidays from their seasons outside the territory playing on junior or post-secondary teams.
“The dressing rooms were interesting when you walked in,” said Martin Lawrie, who was on the Mustangs bench with Jake Jirousek, owner of All Out Hockey and organizer of the charity game event along with his wife Ann Jirousek. “The game was fun and fast, both sides quite enjoyed it. it’s a great event and something that’s just going to continue to grow.”
Lawrie said for some of these returning players, it was their first time playing back on home ice since they were 15 and moved away to further pursue their hockey career.
For returning Mustang Craig Berube, it was a chance to play with his former teammates and friends he grew up with just after the end of his career.
Berube left Whitehorse in Grade 11 to play midget AA and then played for the Notre Dame Hounds for three seasons in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
But Berube blew out his shoulder toward the end of last season and was forced to step away from competitively playing the game.
“It definitely was tough, a huge adjustment from playing hockey every day – eat, sleep, breathing it and changing to going to school,” he said.
This Hockey Fights Cancer charity game was a chance for Berube to step back out on the ice in the rink he grew up playing in and for a great cause in the Yukon Cancer Society.
“Absolutely it’s great to be able to reunite with all those friends and have fun with them, and the ex-Huskies guys too. They paved the way for kids playing hockey and leaving the Yukon to play hockey,” Berube said.
Saturday’s game raised about $4,000 through donations at the door, the 50/50 draw and the beer gardens, Ann Jirousek said.
Last year’s total was matched by Nuway Crushing Ltd., the title sponsor for the Whitehorse Huskies and Jirousek said it is likely they will receive a match again, doubling the proceeds.
The funds raised will go towards travel expenses and financial support for Yukoners who have to leave the territory for medical care and cancer treatment.
On the other bench, a reunion of a championship team that came together to win the Coy Cup on home ice in April before disbanding with a lot of players stepping away.
But even many of these players were able to return making for a great game, Huskies head coach Michael Tuton said.
“We had two rules – have some fun and don’t lose. The bench was full, we ran with four lines, four full lines of defence. There was a lot of chatter going on the bench, it was good to be with them again,” Tuton said.
The Huskies did end up winning the game 4-3 in an exciting fast-paced game against the up-and-comers.
“What a blast and what a chance for everybody to come out and see all these kids who went through the Whitehorse minor system and play at home,” Tuton said. “It just really shows you minor hockey is going in the right direction, lots
of good kids playing high levels of hockey.”
The game also allowed for the raising of the team’s championship banner to the Takhini rafters allowing for those involved and everyone who helped the team on the journey to forever be recognized.
“It’s a pretty important banner to be hanging up in the rafters there, we put a lot of work and effort there,” Tuton said.
Lawrie said the annual charity game has the makings of a great community event and will only continue to grow as more players want to get involved and have the opportunity to give back. Something that Tuton said all the players
jump at the chance to do when an opportunity is presented.
“The players recognize what an opportunity they have to do some give back, given a situation where they could give back to the community they’d jump all over it,” he said.