Goalie Dominic Yakemchuck held his position while an oncoming shooter deked, then lunged to his left to successfully block a shootout attempt as the Oceanside Place crowd whooped its approval.
Not bad for a hockey backstop who’s not yet four feet tall.
Oceanside Minor Hockey wrapped up its 2017-18 season last week in Parksville with its tradition marathon of Spring Classic tournaments, which drew hundreds of visiting players — and their families — to the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.
“This brings the community together for us,” said Jennifer Smith, manager of Oceanside’s Novice Major Team 2 and one of six co-ordinators for the combined novice and initiation tournament that wrapped up the week Sunday, March 25. “Away tournaments are great, but usually it’s just the parents that travel. Here, there’s an opportunity for grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings who may not get a chance to see these kids play.”
Over the course of nine days, Oceanside Minor Hockey hosted its peewee tournament, for players 11-12 years of age; its atom tournament (ages 9-10); and the split tournament for novice (7-8 years) and initiation (4-6 years) players.
In addition to providing a competitive showcase for local players in front of a home crowd, the tournaments are a major fundraiser for each of the local clubs. During each tourney, dozens of parent volunteers rotated shifts at crowded raffle tables.
“We started by asking for community support in donations,” said Smith. “It was amazing; so many small businesses donated 17 raffle baskets altogether. All of the funds from the raffle baskets go back to the teams for equipment and ice time, whatever’s needed.”
The final novice/initiation tournament alone drew 300 players, said Smith, on teams that travelled the length of Vancouver Island, from Victoria to Port Hardy. The peewee and atom tournaments held earlier in the week included some teams from the Lower Mainland.
All of which suggests the minor hockey club was not the community’s only beneficiary during an otherwise quiet time of year.
“All the teams that travel need to stay somewhere,” Smith noted. “When we talked to McDonald’s and Subway to see if we could get some coupons, they said, ‘Thanks for telling us. We didn’t know there was a tournament; we’ll staff up.'”
The recreational peewee and atom tournaments each featured a playoff round with a champion’s trophy at stake. The novice and initiation teams, who played on split, half-ice rinks, were in it strictly for the fun and the experience, and scores were not recorded.
Which is not to say the youngsters didn’t go home with some swag.
“We gave out a Heart-Hustle-Digger Award each game, just to recognize those kids who worked really hard,” said Smith. “And after their final game, every player gets a medal.”