If there was ever doubt that Tamara Veitch was part of a hockey family, it was erased last week by her youngest son, Andy Bodner.
The nine-year-old atom hockey player was all set for his “show-and-share” day at Ocean Cliff Elementary, but the night before decided to scrap his planned project because he instead wanted to bring the trophy his Semiahmoo Bandits had won just a few days earlier – at a tournament in Mission bearing the name of his late grandfather, Jim.
In the 30-year history of the Jim Veitch Memorial Tournament, Andy – one of 17 grandchildren – was the first family member to have the opportunity to play in it.
“He threw out what he’d planned, and he got the trophy, and then he wrote out this great little paragraph about what it meant for him to play in his grandpa’s tournament,” explained Andy’s mother.
“When he got home, he was so excited and said the kids in his class had so many questions. One of them said, ‘Don’t you wish the cup had been full of candy?’ and he said, ‘No, just the feeling of holding it was enough.’
“Right then, I just thought – he gets it… We’re a hockey family.”
As far back as Veitch could remember, her dad was involved in hockey.
When she and her four siblings – two brothers, two sisters – were very young and living on the Prairies, Jim was involved with the Winnipeg Jets junior-hockey organization (long before the name became synonymous with the professional team), and upon moving to the Lower Mainland, he became a fixture on the Mission hockey scene.
“He always had a real job – he worked for Pittsburgh Paints and Glass – but he was always working in hockey behind the scenes. It was his passion,” his daughter said.
When she was just 16 – and her siblings between 14 and 22 years old – her father died at age 43 after suffering a heart attack.
“He died so young, and it was a big blow to our family, and it was also a big loss for our little community, because he was so well-known, so visible,” she said. “It changes you, but it made us all very close as a family, and it makes you realize you can’t take anything for granted.
Though Andy – nor older brothers Max and Quinn – never knew his grandfather, Veitch said getting to play in the event that bears the Veitch name “has brought him to life for my boys.”
“Even though some of the grandchildren played hockey – even some in Mission – Andy was basically the last chance for a Veitch to play in the tournament,” she explained.
People in hockey circles like to talk sometimes about “the hockey gods” – the imaginary sporting deity that smiles or frowns upon players and teams at certain times throughout the season. Maybe a puck miraculously stays out of your net in one game, or your team scores a game-winner with a second left on the clock in another.
Or, in the case of the Bandits, it puts you in touch with an old friend at the perfect time.
When the Bandits – including the parents, coach Kerry Penner and manager Theo Pella – mapped out their season at the beginning of the atom house-league season, the Veitch tournament was listed as one the team was trying to get into, though nobody at the time aside from his daughter knew the family connection to it.
“I happened to send a note to my sister-in-law (in Mission) that we were looking to get into the tournament, and of course, within like 20 seconds, I get a message from somebody I grew up with, who of course is running the tournament,” she laughed. “It’s a small town, I guess. They told us to get our application in quick, and I think they kind of saved us a spot, because they knew what it meant.”
The hockey gods smiled upon the team once they hit the ice, too. Though the squad had played at about a .500 level all season – win one, lose one – they caught fire on Family Day weekend, reeling off six straight victories. In the semifinals, the team won in a shootout. In the championship game, Semiahmoo won 5-3 over an Aldergrove team that had yet to lose a game all year.
And then three decades after the Mission Minor Hockey Association held the first Jim Veitch Memorial Tournament, a member of his family finally raised the trophy over his head in triumph.
“There was definitely a ‘do it for Andy’ feeling in the dressing room before the game,” said Penner.
“And the team was really riding a high after our shootout win. I think we were all just shocked when we won – we couldn’t have written a better ending to our weekend.”
Andy scored the team’s first goal and added an assist. His grandmother, Shirley Anderson, was in the stands to see it, alongside a number of other family members.
“They gave the trophy to him, and let him skate around with it – it was like they’d won the Stanley Cup,” his mom said.
“It was a pretty crazy weekend. Hockey has been a big part of all of our lives, so this was pretty magical.”