PORT McNEILL—Any hockey team will have its highs and lows over the course of a season.
The Port McNeill Downpour women’s season, though, suffered a dizzying fall from the highest peak to the lowest valley in the span of a couple weeks.
On the heels of their run to the championship of the annual Port Hardy Wild Women’s Tournament in late November, the Downpour were forced in mid-December to cancel their own traditional tournament, which would have taken place next month at Chilton Regional Arena.
It is the first cancellation for the tournament, which has run for 15 years and which, as recently as last season, had a waiting list of teams lined up to take part.
“A lot of the down-Island teams aren’t coming up,” Downpour organizer Barb Drennan said. “All these teams that have come up year after year, and they decided for one reason or another they couldn’t make it this time.”
Seven teams had originally committed to the tournament, which would have been played Feb. 17-19. Reasons given by the teams for withdrawing, Drennan said, were travel expense, shortage of experienced players and commitment by team members.
But she believed the November landslide that closed Highway 19 and left three women’s teams stranded for two days in Port Hardy also played a role.
“I believe for a couple of teams it made the difference whether or not they came,” Drennan said.
Three participants who elected not to travel to Port McNeill were the Nanaimo Black Ice, the Courtenay Whalers and the Comox Breakers. All three were in Port Hardy last fall when the landslide struck.
Only Port Hardy, the crosstown Port McNeill Ice Storm and one Victoria team were left committed to the tournament when Drennan and her teammates reluctantly submitted the cancellation to Chilton Arena.
“To be fair to the arena, we decided to give them two months notice,” Drennan said. “That’s a lot of ice time.”
The Downpour tournament was known as much for its social functions — including a large Saturday-night party — as for its hockey. The hospitality made it a popular draw and just one year ago left Drennan holding 10 down-payment cheques for a tourney with just eight available spots.
Now, just 12 months later, the Downpour couldn’t get half as many teams to commit.
“It’s very disappointing,” forward Lisa Brown said. “It’s our one opportunity to host a tournament and have the teams visit, which to me is more exciting than going down-Island to play.
“Our tournaments were a little extra-special, more of a social event that other teams don’t offer.”