ST. ANTHONY, NL – Members of St. Anthony’s recreational hockey league will be lacing their skates and competing in Florida this spring.
Currently 12 players from the area have signed on to take part in the tournament. Before their big debut, organizer Noah Smith hopes a few more will also step up to the plate and join the team.
“We’ve played the James Cook tournament in Corner Brook every spring the past four years,” Smith said. “Now between the jigs and reels and sitting around and have a few swallies, a few of us decided to go a bit further and take the team on the road.”
The Annual Weekend Hockey Tournament in Clearwater Beach, Florida takes place from April 19-21 with players of various age and skillset across North America. When Smith heard word of the tournament, he got the boys together and began organizing with the tournament’s contact in Ontario.
Some of the oldest skaters at St. Anthony’s polar centre will be bringing their years of experience to the tournament, including 70-year-old Eric Boyd.
“The 50 plus category is what we’ll be playing in; I was hoping to get in the 70 plus category,” Boyd said with a laugh.
Being the oldest player in their recreational league, Boyd looks forward to the tournament as a potential farewell to his many decades playing hockey.
“For me, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “My career is starting to wind down with hockey, so it’ll be a good way to finish it off if I decide to retire this year.”
Smith says the tournament organizers ensure the teams are thoroughly vetted and the team they face off against will be of an equal skillset.
“They make sure the talent is the same, we’re not expecting to play against former NHLers,” Smith said. “It’s not competitive, it’s just for fun.”
Still, the team is ready to give it their all and get a winning game. Smith says they have their minds set on returning home as champions.
“We’re looking for a big celebration when we get back after we win the tournament, we’re hoping to anyway,” said Smith. “We’ve got some big guns on the defense, so if we can turn their smiles around we’ll do alright.”
The paperwork is filled and the flights from Deer Lake to Tampa Bay are now booked. If the stars align and Tampa Bay is in the playoffs with a home game while they’re in town, the boys plan on attending an NHL playoff game as well.
“It’s going to be a wonderful weekend I think, we’re all really looking forward to it,” said Boyd.
Now in the weeks leading up to the tournament, Smith says the team will keep fit and fiddled as they move closer to their big game.