By Erin Meagher
Organizers of Atlantic Canada’s largest March break hockey tournament had a decision to make: they could either cancel the tournament for a year and pick it up again next year, or they could find a way to make it work.
The Joe Lamontagne memorial hockey tournament faced volunteer issues this year caused by changes to students’ March break. Students in the HRM were given two weeks off in February for the Canada Games rather than their usual break in March.
Tournament chairman, Jim McGinnis, who has been involved with the tournament for the past five years, was determined to continue the Cole Harbour hockey tradition.
“It was suggested to us…that perhaps we put the tournament on the shelf for this year and pick it up again next year,” says McGinnis. But that idea didn’t fly with the organizers. “We felt that sometimes when you break the chain of continuity among volunteers and everything else that it’s hard to start it back up again. We thought that it would be too risky to miss a year. It was well worth the extra work to make sure the tournament happened this year.”
Mike Boivin has been a volunteer responsible for scheduling ice times and keeping statistics for the Cole Harbour Bel Ayr Minor Hockey Association for the past 12 years. He agrees that the committee wanted to find a way to make it work.
“Since this is the 30th anniversary we wanted to have a big tournament but unfortunately with the Canada Games, which is also a big event, we had to scale it back but we didn’t want to cancel it,” he says.
Boivin says the most difficult part was finding officials and volunteers for the games on Friday. The majority of their volunteers are students who, because of the change to the March break this year, were in school during the time of the tournament.
Chris Miller has been a tournament official for the past eight years and he says that there are both benefits and drawbacks to this year’s tournament format.
“I would have to say that I enjoyed having the tournament over the nine days because you get more rest, but I also like the format this year because you get to know the coaches and players a lot more as we’re doing multiple games a night,” says Miller.
The tournament committee had to decrease the size of the tournament significantly as ice time was hard to find. Boivin says they had to cut out the entire midget rep division as well as the female division.
The number of teams who were able to register was noticeably less than previous years.
“We couldn’t accept as many teams,” says McGinnis. “We would normally on an average year accept anywhere from 160-180 teams. This year we accepted 112.”
Boivon says that was a problem for some of the participants, “Atom had eight team divisions which was the largest. The peewee and bantam categories only had four team divisions so it wasn’t as exciting for the kids. We typically have 8, 12 and 16 team divisions.”
This year’s format also affected the influx of teams from out of province.
“Typically we get three or four teams from Newfoundland but we didn’t get any this year,” says McGinnis. “In the past we’ve had teams come from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, we didn’t expect them to come this year.”
“Every year teams register earlier and earlier,” says McGinnis. “It’s becoming a tournament that when teams form at the beginning of the year and we open registration, it’s one of the very first things they do. We’ve been around for 30 years so there’s tradition and we’re well known in the hockey community. The profile of Cole Harbour as a hockey community has been greatly enhanced by Sidney Crosby. That’s had a big affect on it.”