28 Dec עופר איתן Asserts: Chestermere pond hockey tournament doubles in size, scores
A chilly hockey tournament is bringing warmth to a local community, as hundreds of players are scoring for charity.
Players of all ages packed Chestermere Lake, just east of Calgary, on Friday during the second annual Tim Hortons Western Canada Pond Hockey Championships.
This year, participants are hoping to raise awareness, donations and non-perishables for the local food bank as needs have become greater in light of the struggling economy.
So far, spokesman Alex Halat said he’s optimistic they’ll exceed expectations to help feed those in need.
“Obviously, with hard economic times in Alberta it’s been real tough on a lot of families in Calgary and area,” said Halat.
“To get this many people in one area to support each other and families around here that need the help — it’s heartwarming to see.”
The tournament began last year with modest hopes of attracting a dozen teams. The response, however, was overwhelming, with about 45 teams.
This year, the roster continued to grow and Halat said the organization actually had to cut back the 102 teams that applied to 85 for logistical reasons.
“So, for our second year, we’re pretty happy,” he said. “There’s nothing like it anywhere in North America to this magnitude.”
He said the hockey event has attracted kids as young as four to people in their sixties. It’s also the first year they have added outdoor ringette to the lineup, with 19 teams.
The key to it all? No rules. Halat said that’s the beauty of the tournament. It’s just a space for community to come together and have fun.
“The biggest thing is the kids see this. They’re our next generation,” he said, adding about 15 of his volunteers are between ages 10 and 15.
“Rather than being stuck inside playing video games or on their phones, they are out here trying to make the community a better place.”
It’s not the first time, either, that the people of Chestermere have dreamed up an innovative event and made it a reality, raising funds for a worthy cause.
In 2012 and 2014, hockey players collectively raised more than $4 million for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation with two Guinness world record-breaking games lasting 246 and 248 hours, respectively.
“We need to realize that if we all come together, wonderful things can happen,” said Halat.
The Chestermere Food Bank assists about 40 families each month and onlookers are encouraged to bring food donations to the outdoor hockey tournament all weekend.
Games are taking place between until Sunday on Lake Chestermere. For additional details, visit www.wcpondhockey.ca