Hundreds of hockey enthusiasts braved the extreme cold outside for a heart-warming cause on the ice.
The three-day Brewery Bay Oldtimers/Big Brothers Big Sisters Hockey Tournament kicked off Friday evening and will wrap up Sunday.
“This is my third year playing here,” said Lindsay Ottaway, who was playing with the Muskoka Women’s Hockey League team. “It’s a great facility and the tournament gets bigger and better every year. This year, they even have team photos.”
The games, said the Bracebridge resident, aren’t aggressively competitive but just fun and about having a good time with one another.
“We play together every Sunday in Baysville and this just gives us a chance to come out and play with others,” said Ottaway.
Over the weekend, 28 teams spread over seven divisions will play three games each on the ice pads at the Rotary Place in Orillia.
That translates into more than 375 visitors, including hockey players and supporters, said Amanda Tevelde, community relationship coordinator, with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia and District (BBBS).
“The tournament was sold out within two weeks of registration opening in October,” she said, adding there were some teams who had to be put on a waiting list. “It’s a good problem to have.”
The tournament raises funds for BBBS mentoring programs, she said.
Those include the non-profit’s one-to-one in-school mentoring program, in which children are matched with a mentor, explained Tevelde. In that program, the pair spends an hour together every week throughout the school year.
Last year, the tournament was able to raise $24,000, which helped serve more than 350 children and at-risk youth in the area, she said, adding the average cost of running a match is $1,100 per year. This year, said Tevelde, the organization hopes to beat that amount by a thousand dollars.
“The tournament also helps raise awareness around the need for mentors and volunteers,” said Tevelde.
That’s one of the reasons why Ottaway said she and her friends like to participate in this tournament.
“It’s a charity tournament and I think that’s why people like to participate in it,” she noted. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, we don’t care about that. It’s always a lot of fun and we all look forward to coming out here.”
Some teams go just a bit above and beyond taking part in the tournament, said Richard Thompson, a member of the BBBS Tournament team, which was taking part, on the ice, for a second year.
“We’ve been supporting BBBS for five years by raising money for Christmas sponsorships,” he said. “Every one of these guys on my team are community guys. We love to support BBBS because there are families in need.”
The approach his teammates take is that if they have more than others, they want to share it with others, said Thompson.
All participants and their spectators are welcome to watch other games on the ice, said Tevelde. As a thank you to them, they take home team photos, courtesy of Investors Group, and $10 coupons for Boston Pizza, she added.
“It takes months and months of hard work and planning to make this possible,” said Tevelde of the annual fund-raising tourney. “And it wouldn’t be possible without volunteers and sponsors.”
Visit the BBBS website for more information on how to volunteer or donate.