A recently-formed hockey team called the North West Sockeyes won gold 5-3 against the Prince George Tigers at the Prince George Invitational Tournament April 5 to 7.
With eight-year-old players from Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, coaches and parents decided to put together a regional team in March after receiving the invitation to compete.
“It was definitely very emotional, we’re very proud of the kids, especially seeing these kids battle each other all year and then coming together to play as a team. It was something I can’t even explain,” says Paula Ferretti, manager of the North West Sockeyes and parent. “We didn’t expect to win… they made their dreams become a reality.”
She says they wanted their kids to take part in this tournament because it gave them the opportunity to transition from half-ice to full-ice, noted as “real hockey” with off-sides and penalties.
Their final game began with the PG Tigers taking a point but the Sockeyes fought back with four goals, leading them 4-1 into the third period.
The Tigers bit back with two more points to bring the game to close call until the Sockeyes struck with another score that led them to their winning title.
“They’re all competitive, they love the sport, they have the drive, these are the kids that could do [hockey] every single day and not complain,” says Paula. “They just all have ice on the brain.”
The North West Sockeyes formed after coaches from Terrace and Kitimat received an unexpected invite to take part of the tournament but were unsure if they could gather enough players on their own after the regular hockey season ended.
They came together and contacted Prince Rupert to ask if anybody would be interested in playing as a region and received a positive response from parents who wanted their children to continue playing off-season.
Within 24-hours, the North West Sockeyes team, named to represent the fishing and rivers in the area, was officialized with 14 players — one of them a girl.
“These are usually the kids that would never get to be all on the same team because they’re the strongest kids,” says Paula.
She says the parents came together to cover all the costs for the tournament, including ice time and insurance. Rio Tinto sponsored their team by offering jerseys and socks for the players.
They only held three practices and two mock games to prepare their team for the competition.
“The parents were just as excited as the kids… to see how much they’ve grown, they’re becoming little athletes,” says Paula. “It’s more of the reward seeing our kids so passionate about something and it just feels good to be a part of that.”
She adds they were also eager for them to form new friendships, as they’re generally competing against one another.
“These are going to be long-lasting memories for them and it’s going to be different because they’re going to make friends for life,” Paula says. “And it’s not just the children, I’ve met other [parents] who I never would have approached originally and now we’re all talking and laughing. Practices are a lot of fun.”
She says that they’re thinking of competing in another tournament next year after the regular season, which is set to take place in Kamloops for their age division.
“We’re not looking to go all year round but we’ve looked into the potential that this team would travel again… we don’t get to travel to places like Prince George with the little kids,” she says. “This is going to be an opportunity for other coaches and people to see how determined and the skills of the kids are in the North, people underestimate little towns [like us].”