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Hockey Through the Ages tournament returns in February

The popularity of Fort Macleod’s alumni hockey tournament shows no signs of slowing down.

Hockey Through the Ages organizers planned to reduce the number of teams this year to six, but were pleasantly forced to stick with eight.

“Man, it filled up in no time,” said Scott Norlin of the organizing committee.

Rob Luther, whose idea it was to hold such a tournament, is somewhat surprised by its ongoing popularity.

“I thought we would take a run at it for two or three years and then it would die out,” Luther said.

Ben Paskal, one of the captains and organizers, said the appeal is about more than hockey,

“It’s more than a hockey tournament,” Paskal said. “It’s a good excuse for everybody to come together at the same time and at the same place, which we don’t get often. It’s kind of a reunion.”

Norlin agreed. “It’s a homecoming weekend.”

Set for Feb. 16-18 at the Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre, the Hockey Through the Ages tournament has raised about $177,000 for worthy causes in its three previous versions.

This year, the money is targetted for an outdoor hockey and sports facility in Fort Macleod.

A location has not been determined for the outdoor rink, and there is no cost estimate.

Organizers thought they would have to reduce the number of teams to six after two captains bowed out, and because it had become challenging to fill out the rosters in previous years.

“In the past, we’ve always scrambled for the last 15 to 20 guys,” Norlin said.

The tournament had even been opened to players under the age of 25, providing their fathers were playing in the tournament.

One hundred and 12 players, aged 25 years and over who have played hockey or lived in Fort Macleod, will hit the ice.

Players are coming from as far away as Kentucky and Dallas.

Each team is guaranteed three round-robin games as well as a playoff game.

There is a cabaret, with live and silent auctions, on Saturday night at the Fort Macleod and District Community Hall. There will be a beer gardens upstairs at the rink on Friday and Saturday.

Each player pays $180 to be drafted onto one of eight 13-player teams.

Captains Rob Luther, Scott Norlin, Gage DeGinnus, Ben Paskal, Cole Archibald, Steve Vandervalk, Ryan Rasmussen and Lyndon Van Buuren will draft their teams on Feb. 3.

A change in this year’s tournament is that players do not get to keep their jersey.

Instead, the jerseys are to be returned to save $8,000 to $9,000 that can instead be put toward the overall fund-raising.

“We’re going to keep them and hopefully they’ll last for four or five tournaments down the road to help raise more money for the chosen charities,” Norlin said.

Most players are returning and already have jerseys from previous years.

Jersey sponsors are Black Acre Farms, Davis Dodge, Campbell Fire Fighting, Smart Building Solutions, Avail CPA, Vanee Livestock, Chinook Dental and Falcan Industries.

People are invited to volunteer as scorekeepers and in other roles during the tournament.

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