It’s been a few weeks since this column has seen the light of day, but I’m bringing it back for a reason.
I’ve been putting off writing down some thoughts about the Bantam Tier 3 Championships that were held in Port Hardy last month, because, frankly, I don’t think anything I write can really do the tournament the justice that it deserves.
However, I’m still going to try because I’m no quitter.
I was in attendance at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena for every single game that the Eagles’ played during the spring break tournament, and I think the entire experience was probably my favourite I’ve ever had as a journalist.
The only other moments that come close were the Tri-Port Midget Wild winning the league banner last year, Derek MacDonald claiming the low gross at the Seven Hills Golf and Country Club’s Men’s Open in 2016, and seeing Iron Chisel member John Bee destroy a 360 lb deadlift at Special Olympics Mount Waddington’s most recent powerlifting event at CFI Fitness.
However, I think the provincial tournament was the most exciting overall to watch. There’s something about watching the game of hockey, specifically at bantam and midget level, that is just thrilling.
You’ve got bodychecks, slap shots, back and forth plays, big saves, and exciting goals that all can happen in the span of a few seconds. All of these factors combine together to create a great time on the ice, not just for the fans, but for the player’s as well.
So what was my favourite game of the tournament?
I think it has to be the semi-final game against Terrace. The Eagles came out flat, looked dogged tired, yet still put up a brave fight and managed to force overtime where Kai Verbrugge eventually converted off a great pass from captain David Klatt. I’ll never forget the moment when the team stormed the ice and mobbed Kai against the boards as the realization they were going to the gold medal game started to sink in.
What was my favourite goal of the tournament?
It had to be David’s huge five on three penalty kill goal against the Whistler Winterhawks.
David grabbed the puck, skated in, and snaked a beauty of a shot into the bottom right corner of the net. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the arena cheer as loud as they did after that goal. It was unreal.
Any other favourite moments from the tournament?
I really enjoyed the game against Dawson Creek after the opening night ceremony.
The Eagles were coming in to the showdown off a big 6-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets to start the tournament, and they were up against a very formidable opponent in Dawson Creek, who were one of the physically biggest bantam teams I’ve seen play.
Nonetheless, the Eagles took the fight right to them and kept chipping away, somehow pulling out a thrilling 5-5 tie.
It was an epic moment, and it really got the ball rolling for the Eagles confidence-wise. They kept the ball rolling for three more games, and while the Eagles may have lost in the gold medal final to Mission, they definitely didn’t go down without a fight.
Marty Gage put it perfectly at the end ceremony. The Eagles may have been sad about losing after the game, but the next day when they woke up they were no doubt proud to be known as the second best Tier 3 team in all of B.C.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org