PORT McNEILL—After a popular, 15-year run the Port McNeill Downpour women’s hockey tournament suffered its first cancellation a year ago.
To the delight of local women players, the tourney is back on the ice and ready for puck drop tomorrow evening at Chilton Regional Arena.
“We started working on it as soon as last year’s (tournament) was cancelled,” said Sonya Strang, co-organizer of the event for the local Downpour team. “We had it confirmed by Dec. 15, when we had to commit to the ice rental.”
From its start in the late 1990s, the Downpour tournament was a popular event for local and visiting teams, and by the mid-2000s had developed a waiting list of teams trying to get in.
But that changed abruptly last year, after several teams in were left stranded on the North Island when a mudslide closed Highway 19 for nearly two days in November 2011 after the women had played a tournament in Port Hardy.
Between that and another tournament set up in Nanaimo during the Downpour’s traditional February weekend, local organizers found too few teams willing to travel north to host a viable tourney in 2012.
“We got seven teams signed up this year,” said Strang. “Hopefully they’ve forgotten about the road closure by now.”
The field includes three local teams — the Downpour and Ice Storm of Port McNeill and the Port Hardy Wild — and a quartet of down-Island squads made up of both returning clubs, like the Victoria Furies, and first-time entrants like the Oceanside Shadowmakers.
Three games are scheduled Friday beginning at 7 p.m. A full day of hockey will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, which ends with the traditional dinner and social at the Haida-Way Inn that evening. The event includes live music from the Jam Shack Araknids.
“Half the reason teams come up is the Saturday night social,” said Strang.
The return of the Downpour tourney could also provide a small boost to the local economy during the lean winter season. The Downpour will have a substantial raffle table with prizes donated by local businesses, and in turn they’ll sell their visitors on those businesses.
“We want to try to promote local business as much as possible,” Strang said.