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Return of hockey tradition celebrated, as Silver Stick tournament wraps up today

79 hockey teams from across Ontario competed in 'biggest tournament of the year' at Magna Centre
2022 03 15 - Newmarket Silver Stick - JQ
Jeffrey Bell shoots the puck into the offensive zone during a semi-final game at the Silver Stick tournament March 15.

Newmarket U18A Renegades captain Lucas Blasak said his team played well for the “biggest tournament of the year,” the Silver Stick Finals.

The team made it to the semi-finals in their division, losing in a close 1-0 game to the Orillia Terriers. 

But Blasak — sidelined due to an ankle injury — said his team still fared well, playing against squads much higher ranked than them.

“It means a lot, coming off of COVID, nothing really happening in tournaments,” he said. “Everyone knew this tournament means a lot to us. We all got ready and prepared. We knew what the stakes were at that tournament. We just came out to play.”

The 35th annual edition of the Newmarket championship went ahead with 79 Ontarian teams from March 12 to 15 at the Magna Centre, all vying for awards and a chance to be recognized in the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Silver Stick display. 

The tournament was postponed from its usual January dates due to the COVID-19-related restrictions. But organizers worked with the town to get ice freed up for the March break and carried on with public health measures now loosened.

Tournament director Murray Taylor said the event went well, with only one team pulling out beforehand due to COVID-19.

“We’re fortunate we have a great group of volunteers that are flexible,” Taylor said. “We just wanted to get the kids back on the ice … You never know when these teams will qualify for this. It can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many kids.”

Keri Weir attended to watch her son play for the Newmarket Renegades. She said organizers did well to put the event on short notice, and it ran excellently.

“To get everything, all the volunteers, prepare the teams, prepare the pamphlet, it’s a big deal,” she said. “This is a hockey tradition.”

Newmarket had 11 teams participating as the host, one for each of the tournament divisions. Only two Newmarket teams made it to the final championship day March 15, with the U18AA squad also losing 3-0 to the Toronto Eagles in the semifinals. 

Newmarket U18A assistant coach Steve Karabatsos said the tournament meant everything to his club.

“We’ve been through COVID for the past two years and we missed out on a lot of hockey, so we’re really excited having it back,” he said. “We didn't end up making it to the finals, but we did really well, and the kids really had a lot of fun.” 

Taylor said he hopes next year can be more normal for the tournament. U.S. teams usually participate, but the event was more limited due to COVID-19 measures.

“We’re just excited about being able to do it,” he said.