Categorized | Sports

Fort Macleod alumni tournament hockey at its best

Organizers at the draft, from left: Mike Bourassa, Ben Paskal, Brian Reach, Wes Stockton, Rob Luther, Scott Norlin, Gage DeGinnus and Cole Archibald.

Hockey players with ties to Fort Macleod will lace up the blades this weekend in support of five worthy causes.
One hundred and 12 players have registered for the second annual Hockey Through the Ages tournament Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14-16.
The tournament is open to people 25 years of age and over who played hockey or lived in Fort Macleod.
Players each pay $150, with live and silent auctions and a dinner supplementing fund-raising.
Last year, the tournament raised more than $45,000 for palliative care at the Fort Macleod Health Centre.
“I truly believe this little town needed a hockey tournament like this for all the ages to enjoy,” said Rob Luther, who had the idea for an alumni-style event. “This community and the players from past and present made this happen. It was crazy how everyone was having fun and smiling. The rink was packed with parents and grandparents.”
The tournament exceeded all expectations of the tournament organizing committee, which includes Luther, Scott Norlin, Mike Bourassa, Wes Stockton, Cole Archibald, Ben Paskal, Gage DeGinnus, Mike Davis and Brian Reach.
Archibald agreed with Luther that people were ready for a charity hockey tournament, and quickly got behind the idea once they realized the potential.
“Both players and spectators who hadn’t been to the rink or seen old friends for a long time were so excited about the atmosphere and the chance to reconnect on the ice and in the stands,” Archibald added.
Norlin and the others did not expect the first tournament to be as popular or raise as much money as it did.
“None of us imagined raising that much money or the tournament having such a ripple effect in the community with the support it received,” Paskal said.
Bourassa, who has been involved with other fund-raisers including the annual co-ed volleyball tournament in support of STARS air ambulance, said he has never seen anything like it.
“I was totally shocked to be honest,” Bourassa said. “I’ve never seen one be as successful and run as smoothly as this one did.”
Norlin was quick to give credit to Luther.
“It was his idea to begin with and obviously a great one. He was responsible for signing up the huge majority of the players based on his idea of a fun weekend for charity and mixing old and young players together.”
Paskal said Luther’s idea of drafting players to the teams opened the door for individuals, who didn’t have to find a team on their own.
“The response we got from players and fans alike was a positive one for sure,” Paskal said. “It was a chance for a lot of people to catch up with old friends and remember a lot of good times spent being part of this community.”
Bourassa agreed the tournament turned into a reunion weekend as players, parents and community members who came out to watch had the chance to visit and reminisce.
Stockton said he also received positive feedback from players and fans alike.
“Talking to some of the parents and family members of players was overwhelming because they loved seeing their kids, brothers, sisters and uncles play,” Stockton said. “It had been many years in between seeing them on the ice.”
Players commented after the tournament that they were reminded of their pride in Fort Macleod.
“I think it was successful because everyone loves this town and was great to come see old friends and visit family,” Stockton said. “Also the fact that you sign up individually says something about wanting to meet and get to know people you wouldn’t really otherwise hang out with.”
Reach was impressed with the mix of people who played in the game, from former professionals to a member of Fort Macleod’s 1970s girls’ hockey team, and from fathers and sons to brothers and uncles.
“The players had a great time,” Reach said. “As organizers we really mixed it up. We all enjoyed playing with lots of different people.”
Bourassa said parents enjoyed the chance to watch their children play hockey again, and were also pleased to be able to visit with folks they haven’t seen since minor hockey.
“It was a big reunion weekend,” Bourassa said. “It just had a magical feel to it.”
Stockton said as soon as the tournament ended last year players were asking when they could sign up for 2018, because they didn’t want to miss out on the fun.
Proceeds from the 2018 tournament will be split between five organizations.
The Fort Macleod Community Aquaponic Greenhouse Society is starting an outreach program in which young people will lead community presentations on how aquaponic technology can produce food while using 95 per cent less water than conventional growing techniques.
The society will use the money from the tournament to build these systems.
Fort Macleod Community Health Champions will use its share for the Water on Tap trailer, a joint project with the Town of Fort Macleod and Fish and Game.
The portable drinking water trailer can be used at large community events free of charge to provide access to drinking water.
The Foothills Center requested money to repair its van.
The W.A. Day Wolf Pack Sports Academy will buy equipment and gym clothes for participants.
Fort Macleod Extendicare requested support to buy a wheelchair tandem bicycle, seniors’ games, iPads or tablets and furniture for the recreation room.
“It was a great feeling to hand over a cheque to the palliative care group last year and hopefully we can help the groups we have chosen this year,” Norlin said. “We had lots of good applicants and maybe if we do really well we can help more than we have selected.”
The organizers are proud to be part of an event that had such a positive impact, in so many ways.
“It’s pretty cool being a part of this project for sure but this tourney wouldn’t be what it is without the players, volunteers and the whole community who really made it something special last year,” Paskal said. “We may never have a year as successful as the first but if we are able to raise some money for some deserving groups it’s a success in our eyes.”
“Being a part of this is amazing, knowing how much our little town bonds together,” Stockton added. “It’s really indescribable and heart-wrenching. It was a tear-jerker presenting that cheque to palliative care. ”
Archibald agreed. “To be part of this project has been awesome and eye-opening. It’s wonderful to see people get together and be part of something as simple as a hockey game and turn it into a community positive.”
Reach said he came away proud of his group, and with the community at large.
“It was hockey at its best,” Reach said.
Added Luther: “I’m happy our little tournament came together so well. I think I can speak for the eight of us and say we are proud of this and hope it can keep going to raise a lot of money this year.”
To get involved with the 2018 tournament contact Mike Davis at 403-330-8666; Gage DeGinnus at 403-795-3703; Ben Paskal at 403-894-6765; Cole Archibald at 403-317-4230; Rob Luther at 403-308-0458; Brian Reach at 403-634-2205; Mike Bourassa at 403-330-3546; Wes Stockton at 403-715-1937; Scott Norlin at 403-331-9068; or fmcharityhockey@gmail.com.

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