Some of the individual awards up for grabs in the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget Hockey Tournament. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Cowichan Valley Memorial hockey tournament honours seven families united by tragedy

Fifteen Midget C teams anxious to play in an event that’s second to none for emotion and excitement

It’s almost indescribable what it means for families linked by hockey and the loss of loved ones at an early age to be part of the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C Hockey Tournament.

The first tournament last year that followed a string of successes of the Ryan Clark Memorial brought a great deal of satisfaction for the competing teams, the memorial families and organizers.

“It just fell into place last year, it couldn’t have worked out better,” said Kathy Irving, who heads the massive organizational team of volunteers.

Everyone is looking forward to the second annual event and the ninth overall under the Ryan Clark Memorial umbrella, taking place Friday through Sunday at Fuller Lake and Island Savings Centre arenas.

Hockey is at the core of this event in a healing environment for so many people affected by unfortunate circumstances. The young players are remembered through a series of unique awards.

“That’s something all these kids had in common,” noted Irving. “They loved hockey. For those kids, it was a passion.”

The families of Brayden Gale, Eric Kernachan, Caleb Kroffat, Christina McLeod, Zak Andrews, Paige Whitelaw and Ryan Clark are thrilled to have this avenue to pay tribute to each of them.

The reception from those families to attend games and offer support was phenomenal.

“I couldn’t get over the Whitelaws,” cited Irving as an example. “We had more people from the community in the arena.”

These are the awards lucky players from among the 15 competing teams will be receiving: the Brayden Gale Memorial Award for the player with the most heart; the Karny Award for fearless player; the Caleb Kroffat Award for the player with the most character; the Christina McLeod Award for the player with the most passion for the game; the Zak Andrews Award for Mr. Personality; the Paige Whitelaw Award for the most sportsmanlike player; and the Ryan Clark Goalie Award for the most outstanding goaltender, the showcase honour from the time the tournament first started.

Each of the awards comes with a unique cube keepsake that was a big hit last season. The award recipients were so thrilled to be recognized it was overwhelming to everyone to witness that response.

There’s also the Ryan Clark trophy for the championship team and commemorative individual belt buckles.

All the participants in the tournament receive hoodies and special tournament towels go to the individual game MVPs.

This is the first year Kroffat’s friends are now of age to play in the actual tournament so that will add a special touch.

There are numerous connections to the birthdates and anniversaries of the deaths of some of the honourees in March to make the event even more emotional.

As an added touch, there’s a mini alumni tournament taking place at Fuller Lake during the tournament for friends of the players who have died.

“Very exciting and the families are so excited,” offered Irving.

Those games for Team Clark, Kernachan, Gale, Andrews and Whitelaw members take place Sunday from noon to 1:40 p.m. and 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. during gaps in the main draw.

The main tournament features 33 games and it’s sure to be action-packed from start to finish.

“Everybody’s quite gung-ho about it,” said Irving.

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