Over 200 street hockey teams made their way to Brantford’s Lions Park in early June to fight for the crown as champion of the 4th annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament.
Each year, teams participate in over ten different divisions for men, women and kids of all ages.
Although not directly involved with the organization of the tournament, Laurier Brantford has many faculty and students participating in the tournament each year. Faculty members such as Greg Stewart and Gary Warrick and students Josh Pungitore, Ryan Spiteri and Nick Savage among others all competed on teams in the tournament.
The tournament has grown in popularity since its inception four years ago, even making the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest road hockey competition ever. This feat was achieved in 2010 with 205 teams and 2096 participants.
Now with the inception of Hockeyfest, a three-day concert held on the same grounds as the tournament, the Walter Gretzky tournament is becoming a staple in the Brantford event calendar. Bands such as The Trews, Three Days Grace and Sublime were all part of the line-up for Hockeyfest this year and drew a very large crowd that consumed half of Lions park.
The other half was covered in hockey rinks with games happening from sunrise to past sunset. Although a very busy three days, those who have been involved with the events before know exactly what they are getting into.
“I have done 44 games in two days” said a Ball Hockey International referee. He wasn’t surprised at how much he had worked on Friday and Saturday, because he had officiated the tournament before. With the tournament starting at 5 p.m. on Friday night and not ending until 6 p.m. Sunday night, the tournament is often busy and sometimes hectic, but first year participant Jesse Bielak doesn’t mind.
“I have played in a lot of ball hockey tournaments but none of them have been as large as this one. I’m having an excellent time and definetly plan on coming back,” said Bielak.
It seemed that not one person at the ball hockey tournament had anything to complain about. And although sometimes games were running behind, everyone seemed to take it in stride. Even when it rained constantly Saturday morning and many games were delayed, a lot of people understood it was out of the organizers hands.
“Listen, when you play sports outside the weather always plays a factor. But why get bent out of shape? At least I’m not at work.” laughed Matt Whitehead, a second year participant.
The complaints at the 4th annual Walter Gretzky Tournament were few and far between as a good time was had by all. The tournament continues to evolve and its presence grows year after year in the City of Brantford and around Ontario. The tournament continues to draw a large crowd and the positive experiences that people get out of it are exactly why so many people keep coming back to compete.
Win or lose, everyone is having fun.