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Hockey tournament promises a memorable Family Day weekend ahead

Tribute paid to seven honourees gone too soon, but never forgotten
Kadin Girdlestone of the Cowichan Valley Midget C1 team that’s playing in the Memorial Under 18 C Tournament on the Family Day weekend. (Photo by Don Bodger)

It’s more than just a hockey tournament.

The Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association’s Memorial Under18 C Tournament is back from a COVID hiatus, with games split between Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus and the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan. It begins Friday, Feb. 17 and continues through Monday, Feb. 20.

The event not only features great action on the ice, but is dedicated to the memory of seven young people from the Cowichan Valley who lost their lives far too soon under tragic circumstances. It’s proven to be a tremendous uplifting experience for the surviving family members.

There are 15 participating teams placed in three divisions of five for round robin play, including eight from the Lower Mainland, and a total of some 258 players.

The three Cowichan Valley Capitals host teams will be joined by two teams each from Cloverdale and Coquitlam, Burnaby, Semiahmoo, Port Coquitlam, Langley, Oceanside, Peninsula, Victoria and Juan de Fuca.

The tournament last took place in March of 2019 during spring break and, after three cancelled tournaments, it’s now found an appropriate new place on the Family Day weekend.

In many ways, it’s almost like starting over for the tournament committee.

“It is actually a very good weekend for us,” said Kathy Irving, one of the event’s founders and the Fuller Lake liaison along with Petra van Deventer.

Rounding out the committee are: Dale Irving (tournament chair), Kristen Arnold (Cowichan Community Centre liaison) and Kirstin Marshall (Spordle/HiSport administrator).

Teams are all at the peak of the season with playoffs in the next couple of weeks. “This has turned out to be a great time for us,” added Kathy Irving.

The tournament actually originated as the Ryan Clark Memorial before being expanded to include the others.

The seven honourees are: Brayden Gale, Eric Kernachan, Caleb Kroffat, Christina McLeod, Zak Andrews, Paige Whitelaw and Ryan Clark. Hockey and sports, in general, provided the common bond among them.

“We have specialized awards that honour the memory of these hockey players that will be awarded over the weekend,” reads a statement in the event program. “Our tournament is about playing the game of hockey that all of our players loved.”

The special awards feature: the Paige Whitelaw most sportsmanlike player; the Brayden Gale Award for the player with the most heart; the Ryan Clark most outstanding goaltender; the Zak Andrews Mr. Personality Award; The Eric Kernachan Karny Award for fearless player; the Caleb Kroffat Award for the player with the most character; and the Christina McLeod Award for the player with the most passion.

“It brings their names back into the public eye,” said Kathy Irving.

Related story: Cowichan Valley hockey tournament unites families affected by tragedy

Sportsmanship is given the highest consideration and there’s no tolerance for fighting.

“The tournament is run by volunteers and our remembered players’ families and friends have also volunteered to help make the weekend a success,” the statement continues. “All profits from this tournament go toward players and families needing financial support.”

The Cowichan Valley Capitals of the B.C. Hockey League have provided tickets to their weekend games for the players. Other major sponsors are: Tim Hortons, Ladysmith Eagles and the Rotary Club of Chemainus.

There will be 50/50 draws at Fuller Lake and the famous duck toss in Duncan.

“Our money we raise goes to help anyone in hockey,” emphasized Kathy Irving.

A total of 66 commemorative towels will be given out to the most valuable players of each team in every game. All tournament participants also receive a special hoodie.

“We give back a lot for this tournament,” noted Irving.

Players will be asked to wear their hoodies in tribute to those being remembered on the weekend.

There’s always room for more volunteers, even at the last minute.

“It’s not too late to even come out and watch a game and pick the MVPs,” said Irving.

Efforts to organize the tournament actually go back to last August, with the hope that COVID wouldn’t result in another cancellation. Fortunately, that’s not the case and it’s full steam ahead.

Some of the players will be in the final tournament of their minor hockey careers and the detail of the organizers is sure to make it a memorable one.


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Kadin Girdlestone of the Cowichan Valley Under 18 C1 team at the bench with one of the memorial tournament hoodies. (Photo by Don Bodger)
From left: tournament awards named after Brayden Gale, Christina McLeod and Caleb Kroffat. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Some of the special Memorial Under 18 C Hockey Tournament awards. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Cartoonist Rob Kernachan puts his symbolic touch to this year’s Memorial Under 18 C Hockey Tournament.
Kadin Girdlestone, 17, of Crofton displays the hoodie that will be given out to all tournament players. Girdlestone is a member of the Cowichan Valley C1 team. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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