The longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island arrived once again with some ‘North Island’ flavour.
The Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament made its return to the Doug Bondue Arena in Port Alice for its 40th anniversary on the weekend, and it was a special sight to see the beautiful rink running again in all its glory.
“Oscar Hickes” was born Oscar Tootoo in 1952 in Churchill, Manitoba. He grew up playing hockey with his brothers and absolutely loved the sport. Tootoo and his two best friends, Ray Carter and Bill Poole, moved to Port Alice in 1972. In August of 1978, Tootoo went to Vancouver to see a specialist to correct a knee injury so he could play hockey that winter. The doctor informed him his playing days were over, and he passed away minutes later in his car from a heart attack. He was only 27-years-old.
The Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament officially started that same year, and it has been running ever since.
This year, however, it was actually in danger of being cancelled.
The Neucel Specialty Cellulose pulp mill didn’t pay its 2018 taxes, and Port Alice council was forced to shutter the arena for the upcoming season, yet determined residents refused to let their rink fade away quietly into the night.
After a ton of fundraising from the Port Alice Arena Society and a sizeable donation from very generous local Dan Friedel, enough funding was raised to open the rink for the weekend so that Oscar Hickes could once again celebrate the brotherhood of hockey.
With 10 teams showing up to play in around the clock games, it was another wild weekend affair that featured friends and family battling it out to see who would earn the prestigious Oscar Hickes cup.
The B-Final came down to a match up between the Merritt Red Nex and the Woss Lucky Loggers, and it turned out to be not too close of a game.
The Red Nex pounded the Loggers over two periods with numerous goals to take home a dominate 6-1 victory.
After that, the A-Final was held later on in the afternoon between Getting Greasy and the Warriors, which saw a ceremonial puck drop from the man the arena is named after, Doug Bondue.
Bondue, who was one of the main contributors that helped get the arena running again back when it first was shut down 10 years ago, said he was thrilled to be on hand for the tournament. “It’s wonderful — For me personally, my two boys came back to play in this, and my two grandchildren are here … I’ve had 150 hugs from longtime residents, and it’s always been a family environment and a great fundraiser for different groups over the years. It’s a bit of a breath of fresh air for one weekend for Port Alice.”
The A-Final turned out to be a back and forth battle with both teams refusing to quit. The Warriors would get out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but Getting Greasy would return fire and tie it up with back to back goals of their own. Getting Greasy would then go up by one, but the Warriors would score again in the second period to tie it up, before finding the net again to take the lead back.
With time winding down, Getting Greasynotched the game tying goal to send things into overtime. The Warriors had two penalties called against them, and it came back to haunt them. Getting Greasy used the two-man advantage to score in the first overtime period, and they got to celebrate in front of a passionate hometown crowd by proudly holding up the Oscar Hickes cup.
After the event, organizer Russell Murray said it was “an absolutely great weekend, I can’t believe the turnout — the hockey has been really great and I couldn’t have dreamed it any better.”
Murray noted they had players come from all over B.C. to participate in the tournament, and he added while the Village of Port Alice “has been kicked in the teeth, people have really come together to support us this weekend — it’s been fantastic.”
As for whether there will be a 41st Oscar Hickes, Murray said “I really hope so, miracles do happen, so we’ll see.”
The man the arena is named after put it best. “The arena is a hub,” said Bondue. “We always had hockey tournaments here, curling bonspiels here, and it was a hub, not only for Port Alice, but the whole North Island.”
The Oscar Hickes Organizing Committee would like to thank:
Port Alice Arena Society, Dan Friedel, Family Foods, Brooks Bay Cable, Westwood Tree Services, Village of Port Alice, Lemare Lake Logging, Western Forest Products, Link River Enterprises, Murray family, CARHA, David Buxton, and the arena staff and all of the countless volunteers who made the tournament happen.