North Island Gazette Editor Tyson Whitney interviewed Oscar Hickes Organizing Committee member Russell Murray about the upcoming Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament, which is taking place in Port Alice at the Doug Bondue Arena March 28-31.
* Editor’s note – The Port Alice Arena Society had to fundraise to open the rink for the weekend after budget cuts (due to Neucel pulp mill not paying its taxes) caused the rink to be shut down this year.
Tyson Whitney: How much funding was needed to reopen the arena?
Russell Murray: To open the arena for a week the village has presented us with a budget for $12,000 plus tournament expenses.
Tyson Whitney: Was it all raised by the Port Alice Arena Society (PAAS)?
Russell Murray: Yes the majority will be raised (by the) PAAS and will also come from increased tournament fees, corporate donations, and other fundraising efforts. We’ve also received a very generous donation from a previous tournament organizer that has allowed us to proceed quicker than expected. It will be a community wide effort to support this tournament. It’s our town’s flagship event that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local kids groups (minor hockey, henny penny play school, Dry Grad, PAC, Youth Soccer) over the last 40 years.
Tyson Whitney: What was the process in getting council to agree to open the arena for the weekend?
Russell Murray: A proposal was sent to the council, they reviewed what upgrades were required and provided us with a budgeted amount of incremental expenses they would require reimbursement to make it happen, and we’ve provided a 50 per cent non-refundable deposit to start the process for the upgrades required to the refrigeration system that are necessary. They have been very supportive during the whole process. They understand how important this weekend is to the community.
Tyson Whitney: Anything special planned for the 40th anniversary?
Russell Murray: The Lions Club will be hosting a dance with a theme of “Party Like its 1979!”. We are also hoping to have as many people from the original Oscar Hickes tournament come back to Port Alice. The tournament in recent years has been a reunion for many that have moved away from Port Alice. We are exploring other special events, so stay tuned. Also this year, local home cook Sherry Milot will be hosting dinners at the curling club Friday and Saturday nights with all proceeds going to PAAS, as well there will be the traditional Sunday evening dinner at the legion hosted by the Ladies auxiliary. The Port Alice Golf Club will be hosting this year’s beverage garden during the tournament.
Tyson Whitney: How many teams are you hoping to have scheduled?
Russell Murray: We need at least eight teams to proceed, which we currently have, but we are hoping to have between 12-16 total. We are currently look for teams in our mixed C-division and B-recreation divisions. Entry fee is $900 per team. 50 per cent deposits due by Feb. 28. Full Fees due by March 15. Teams that are interest should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our facebook page “Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament”.
Tyson Whitney: What does the Oscar Hickes Memorial Tournament mean to the village and the residents?
Russell Murray: The tournament was originally started to remember Port Alice resident Oscar Hickes who passed away suddenly. He was a great hockey player and was a community guy that supported youth sports. As mentioned above, it’s a huge fundraiser for many of the local groups. It’s also a reunion for many that have moved away. Adults that grew up in Port Alice that have moved away return home for a weekend filled of hockey, fun and reminiscing. There is also a large rivalry between age groups and teams. Growing up we all played hockey together and against each other. So on the ice we are bitter rivals but as soon as the buzzer sounds we are friends again, joking and cheering.
Tyson Whitney: How much money is generally raised for various groups every year from the tourney?
Russell Murray: It’s tough to add up but in years past I would estimate at least $15-20 thousand would be generated by the tournament. Many groups operating budgets are largely funded by this weekend. There’s also the economic impact to local businesses seen during the weekend.
Tyson Whitney: Any favourite memories over the 40 years?
Russell Murray: For me personally, I remember as a child watching my dad play and staying up well past my bedtime watching hockey and dreaming of the day I could play. Growing up in Port Alice it’s a right of passage to play in Oscar Hickes. You can’t wait to play. My first one will always be memorable but my favourite one is the annual game my team plays against my younger brother Bruce’s team. It’s always a lot of fun, but unfortunately, his team has gotten the better of us older brothers lately.
Tyson Whitney: Any thank you’s?
Russell Murray: Without the support of the village and Port Alice Arena Society this tournament would not be happening. There are too many people list individually but it truly is the whole community coming together to host this tournament. We look forward to another great and safe tournament.