Each year, annual hockey tournaments take place on the coast. Each town has its own tournament including Blanc-Sablon, St. Pauls River, St. Augustine, La Tabatiere, Chevery, Harrington Harbour and La Romaine. This has been taking place since the 1970’s.
In the early years, players and their fans would travel the bitter cold on ski-doo by the Route Blanche to attend each tournament. The travel time would often take much longer than it would today due to poorer trail conditions. Each village would send their team(s) to the hosting village to play hockey. The tournament would begin on Friday when each team would face off against another. The fun continued on Saturday with a day filled with kids and adult hockey. Sunday was the big day; the day of the finals!
Years ago, teams would play for “The Cup”. Each town had their own cup and that cup was not allowed to leave their town. Nowadays, teams compete for a banner provided by the hosting village. There is a banner for the A division and one for the B division; these banners are taken home with the winning team and hung in their arena or community hall.
Local hockey tournaments have changed drastically over the years. Years ago, teams would play on outdoor rinks where the fans would lean over the snow banks or the roof of the penalty box to watch the game (and possibly get hit in the face with a puck!) Everyone would dress in their green pokey boots, army jacket and Big Bills to keep warm. Players would often be seen without helmets on. Generally speaking, there was a lack of equipment or it was flimsy compared to that worn today. Hockey players would play hockey with a wooden stick, valued at about $20 dollars and bought from a local grocery store. Players would often put their equipment on at their houses to stay warm, since their dressing rooms joined to the outdoor rink were barely heated. Caring for the outdoor ice often proved difficult. Community members would have an oil drum of hot water with a mat attached and pour it on the ice. They would keep it clear from snow by scraping it with a sheet of plywood and then shovelling it over the boards.
At night, the hall would be open for a night of socialization. The entertainment was not like today though; sometimes it would simply consist of a guitar player and everyone joining a circle around him to sing. Over time, local bands started to play; now bands are often paid to come in from the outside.
Clearly, hockey tournaments have changed since the days of the outdoor rinks. Most villages are now proud to say that they own a covered rink or arena, with ice flooded by a Zamboni. Most players are also well equipped; this -often overpriced hockey equipment – can be put on in the comfort of a dressing room inside of the arena. Some towns now offer the option of listening to the games on the local radio station; an advantage for those people who can’t make it to the game. When the band is finished playing at the end of the night, we can take out an iPhone and listen to a playlist. The one thing that has stayed the same though – hockey tournaments still remain the best time of the year on The Coast!
Written by Britney McKinnon, secondary 5, École St. Augustine School, Mrs. Crystal’s ELA class