Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

DAY AT THE RINK – (Left) Jack Hulland Elementary School 1 raise their championship banner; (Right) An Elijah Smith Elementary School 2 player skates on net during the bronze-medal game against Christ the King Elementary School.

Schools hit the rink at day hockey tournament

Walking into the Canada Games Centre Wednesday afternoon,

By Dustin Cook on January 25, 2018

Walking into the Canada Games Centre Wednesday afternoon, you would think it is still winter break. Kids and hockey bags filled the hallways and hockey games were in full swing on both ice rinks.

But instead it was a day away from the classroom for the Yukon elementary school hockey tournament.

A total of 12 teams with over 150 players took part in the day-long tournament, with all teams playing a minimum of five games.

Tournament organizer Vanessa Stitt from Holy Family Elementary School said in the five years she has been involved in the tournament, this is the largest number of teams they have had. As a result, they had to shorten the game lengths for the round-robin match-ups in order to fit the tournament into their eight hours of ice time.

“Teams filled up within a week of registering, whereas in the past I’m calling the first week of January,” Stitt said.

Stitt was all around the building throughout the day making sure everything ran smoothly, but remarkably had little knowledge of what was happening on the ice.

“I’ve never played, I don’t the rules. I can name the Canadian NHL teams, that’s it,” she said. “I’m organizing it for the kids.”

The tournament started through Ted Hupe, principal of Holy Family, with individual schools challenging other schools to play during recreational time. Then he decided to make it a day event with all schools able to compete.

Eight schools were represented, some having two teams, including a team from Teslin who was awarded the sportsmanship award for the second year in a row.

“It’s fun to award kids beyond first, second and third. Teslin comes in with the goal to get sportsmanship,” Stitt said.

“We wanted more incentive for other parts of it.”

There was also an award given for cleanest locker room throughout the day, which went to Holy Family 2.

On the ice, the action was fast-paced throughout the day to keep the tournament moving. Games were only separated by short floods of the ice and by the knockout rounds, teams were jumping off and jumping right back on in their quest for the gold medal.

Jack Hulland Elementary School 1 and Whitehorse Elementary School 1 went undefeated to the gold-medal game with Jack Hulland coming out on top in the final game.

Elijah Smith Elementary School 2 took home the bronze medal in a tight game over Christ the King Elementary School.

Elijah Smith’s trip to the medal round took a nail-biting shootout victory in the quarter-final round over Jack Hulland 2.

Parents and players on teams eliminated early in the day filled the stands to cheer on their schools during the day at the rink.

There is no hockey season for the schools and Stitt said this one day allows hockey players to represent their schools on a team.

It also takes a team of parents to run the tournament smoothly, said Stitt, noting the large support from the Whitehorse hockey community to supply any equipment needed and helping organize the referees for the day.

“To me it’s worth it to do all the work ahead of time. Being here at 7 a.m. to do stuff in the morning, it’s worth it for the kids,” Stitt said.

The referees for the day of games are students as well, Stitt said. They have all gone through the certification process and are graduates of the tournament themselves.

“It’s nice that the kids can see when they get older they can ref here and it’s a huge incentive for them,” she said.

Being graduates from the schools competing, Stitt said quite a few of the refs also had younger siblings playing in the tournament making it a family affair on the ice.

All of the tournament participants had to have some form of hockey experience, Stitt noted, either through the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association or the Saturday girl’s hockey program run through Hockey Yukon.

Coaches and players donned Booster Juice stickers as a way to thank the Canada Games Centre Booster Juice location and owner Glenna Shepherd for their support and covering ice time costs.

“Booster Juice has helped us out the last couple of years covering cost for ice time because it is so expensive,” Stitt said. “Because of her helping us cover costs it’s possible.”

Eight games of hockey in one day sounds exhausting, but if there was any tiredness in the young players at the end of the day, it was overpowered by the excitement of playing the game they love with their friends.

“The kids are off school playing hockey,” Stitt said. “They think it’s great.”

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