A ball hockey tournament in honour of Harvey Walkus’ life took over Port Hardy last weekend.
Walkus, an incredibly talented floor hockey player, sadly lost his fight with depression and took his own life in 1998.
Gary Walkus did not want his brother’s death to be in vain, and organized the first Harvey Walkus Memorial ball hockey tournament in 2000. This year the tournament was held at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena on April 20-22, which featured 10 mens teams and five ladies teams battling it out to see who would meet in the finals.
In the ladies division, Gil’s Girls and the Harvey Walkus Memorial team both qualified for a date on Sunday afternoon, and the game ended up being a real nail-biter.
The first period was back and forth for 20 minutes straight with Gil’s Girls getting the better chances on net, but the Harvey Walkus Memorial’s goaltender really came to play that day, shutting the door on chance after chance, making great save after great save to keep the game tied.
In the second period, Harvey Walkus Memorial struck early at 18:16, finding the back of the Gil’s Girls net off a hard shot through traffic.
Gil’s Girls battled hard for the tying goal after that, but were just unable to blast the ball past the Harvey Walkus Memorials goaltender, who continued to stand on her head and make the saves when they mattered the most.
With less than five minutes left on the clock, Harvey Walkus Memorial added an insurance goal and that was all she wrote for Gil’s Girls.
The men’s final was held immediately after, which featured two out of town teams, the Sting and the Jets.
The Sting would strike early on with a goal within the first minute, but the Jets would answer back with five minutes left in the first period, scoring the tying goal off a hard shot from the point.
In the second period, a Sting player broke in on an offensive rush and roofed the ball top shelf off the crossbar to make it 2-1, but the Jets refused to lay down and quit, tying the game back up off a scramble in front of the net.
The Jets would then take the lead off a huge slapshot from “centre ice” that deflected its way into the Sting’s net, then scored another goal at 12:46 off a slapshot from the corner through traffic, before adding one more goal at 3:30 to make it 5-2.
The Sting went into desperation mode from that point, and they managed to score two goals back to back to make it 5-4, but that was as close as they would get.
The buzzer sounded and the Jets celebrated, throwing their equipment in the air and hugging their goaltender, who had stood his ground for the last minute, making clutch saves to keep their lead in tact.
After the game ended, Gary Walkus spoke briefly about his brother Harvey before handing out the awards.
“I’d like to thank everybody, my siblings, my parents — a lot of work went into hosting this tournament.”
Walkus said it has been “20 years since we lost Harvey… This tournament is held to promote suicide awareness, because that’s how we lost Harvey, it was suicide.”
He added that every year he and his family put on the ball hockey tournament, “It keeps our healing process moving along… Harvey was a tremendous hockey player, he played with his heart. Gila’kasla to those that support this tournament each and every year.”