SPORTS February 5th, 2018

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Nothing was going to stop LHA’s select tournament

Despite challenges, 120 teams played at 10 arenas across Toronto

BRIAN BAKER/STREETER LINING UP: 120 teams descended onto Toronto from Feb. 1 to 4 for the 28th annual Select Invitational Tournament.

Not even a broken-down Zamboni at Victoria Village Arena could keep the Leaside Hockey Association’s 28th annual Select Invitational Tournament from going ahead.

It’s early on a Saturday morning, and two of the three co-chairs, Anthony Hammill and Brad Cressman, are sitting in Leaside Memorial Gardens making sure the tournament is running without a hitch. The third member of the triumvirate, Jennifer O’Donnell was in the field.

Parents, players and equipment fill the halls creating a mini-hockey traffic jam. There are 120 teams taking part. Kids ages 5 to 18 are playing games at 10 arenas across the city, Leaside being the hub.

The Zamboni in question created “a bit of a dance” for the trio as they had to track a replacement from Mississauga to Toronto.

“We were talking with our people to get a sense of how long it would take to get a Zamboni off the truck and onto the rink,” Hammill said. “Questions, I never thought I would ask. Turnaround time for a Zamboni is five minutes.”

The two men are parents to sons playing in the tournament. But after putting in the time to organize the tournament, they’ve become more than parents, but fans of all the Leaside teams.

“I feel a source of fatherly pride for all Leaside teams,” Cressman said, adding one particular hockey game that stood out for him was a Minor Atom game between George Bell and Oakville at Canlan.

The two teams battled through most of regulation in a 2-2 tie. In the last minute, the George Bell Arena squad pulled their goalie and won.

“They got a goal in the last minute and it was their first tournament win ever,” Cressman said. “The parents were going nuts.”

When it comes to the parents, Wendy Ducheck could see the excitement in her two boys, Cooper and Justin. Though she was watching her nephew play on Saturday, she was ready for her sons’ next few games.

“I think the younger one definitely has his hopes on the trophy,” she said, with a laugh. “The older guy is having fun even though his team isn’t doing quite as well.”

The part she said she loves the most is bumping into everyone she knows, “whether milling around the silent auction or in the hall”.

The tournament was sponsored by Scotiabank, at the platinum level, Bell and Lexus on the Park were gold sponsors.

Arenas hosting the tournament were:

• Angela James Arena, Grenoble Drive, Flemingdon Park
• Canlan Ice Sports – 1, Victoria Park Avenue, North York
• CanlanIce Sports – 2, Victoria Park Avenue, North York
• Cummer Park Arena, Leslie Street, North York
• De La Salle Arena, Farnham Avenue, Summerhill
• Fenside Arena, Slidell Crescent, North York
• Leaside Memorial Gardens – A (Pashby), Millwood Road, Leaside
• Leaside Memorial Gardens – B (Grant),Millwood Road, Leaside
• York Mills Arena,  Bayview Avenue, York Mills
• Victoria Village, Bermondsey Road, Victoria Village