Although most junior hockey players in Ontario don’t play in serious leagues like the OHL or Junior A, that doesn’t mean they don’t play serious games.
Recreational or house leagues still provide good competition and exciting hockey. Scarborough’s four day Don Montgomery Memorial Hockey Tournament – which wound up Jan. 16 – showed how successful, competitive and passionate the players are.
“All the kids in the tournament are playing house league,” said George Rennie, tournament organizer and board member of the Scarborough Hockey Association. “People are so crazy with Triple A. These kids should get an opportunity to play too. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at.
“When you have a game going into triple overtime with three skaters a side, it would be just as exciting with everyone standing and watching.”
This year, 56 teams from all over the GTA – even as far as Kingston – in 10 age divisions played in the tournament.
The Scarborough Bandits and West Hill Golden Hawks organizations fared well, with three teams from the area winning in their age groups and two more reaching the finals.
Rennie said he and the SHA see the tournament as a real symbol of community within Scarborough.
The commitment to the tournament was exemplified by a team from Forest Hill, which has participated three years in a row, progressively getting better and winning the title this year.
“It gives the chance [to those] playing in house league to play in a tournament atmosphere,” Rennie said. “This is where most of the money goes.”
Money made from the tournament goes back into the Scarborough programs to benefit the players in the house leagues.
Even with the HST raising the price of ice time, the SHA has not upped the prices for players. Returning players in the Scarborough leagues get a $100 refund.
The tournament was formerly known as the Scarborough Youth Hockey League January Tournament, but was renamed after former SHA president and philanthropist Don Montgomery last year.
Rennie said he received several glowing reviews and tons of emails raving about this year’s tournament.
“This was the best part about house league,” said Derek Boshkov, a former minor league player in the Scarborough. “The games were more meaningful, and the team and parents would be a lot more involved [in] the action and games.”
Rennie said he hopes to expand the tournament across the GTA, making it the biggest hockey tournament of its kind.