by Phil Ambroziak
It seemed almost fitting.
The Patuanak Pats of English River First Nation were the overall winners of the 2014 Abe Apesis Memorial Hockey Tournament held this past weekend at both the Meadow Lake and District Arena and PineRidge Ford Place on Flying Dust First Nation. Apesis, who died in 2007, was a long-time Pats player and a strong supporter of the team and hockey in general.
“He was the Pats’ leader for many years,” explained English River First Nation councillor Archie Campbell, who helped organize the two-day event. “When he retired, he was considered a legend and was always called up for any major tournaments and such. But, he wasn’t just a good hockey player – he loved the sport so much he pushed a lot of young guys and girls to improve their game.”
The money raised from the tournament will go toward youth development at ERFN, as well as educational support for after-school programs.
“Aside from hockey, Abe actively promoted all sports throughout the community,” Campbell continued. “When he passed away in November 2007, it was was a big loss for the community because of how much he was involved with our local youth. He pushed them hard – showed them what they had to do if they wanted to make it to the next level. He was also an outdoors person who truly loved the land.”
Campbell went on to express how pleased he was to see such strong support for the tournament, not only from participants, but also from fans.
“In Northwest Saskatchewan, hockey is still by far a very important part of peoples’ lives,” he said. “This is our third year for the tournament and, for the first two years, we held it in Prince Albert. While we appreciate the support we had from that community, we also received a lot of requests by Northern residents to hold the tournament in a location more accessible for them. Abe was known throughout the Northwest big time.”
Twelve teams from across the Northwest competed on the weekend.
“This event is also a great way for people from the North to come together,” Campbell added. “It’s been a brutal winter, so being able to bring so many people together is really what it’s all about. We’ve also had a lot of community support. This event is great for industries such as hotels and restaurants and we’re grateful to the City of Meadow Lake and Flying Dust First Nation for supporting us through the usage of their arenas. To support an event featuring 12 teams over two days is quite something.”
Meadow Lake councillor and parks and recreation board chair Curtis Paylor agreed.
“We’re really happy to support this event because it brings a lot of people to the community,” Paylor said. “We haven’t hosted a tournament like this in a few years. Arenas often operate at a deficit, so the more revenue we can bring in the better. It benefits everybody – hotels, businesses and concessions.”
For their efforts on the weekend, the Pats earned $12,000, as well as jackets, a championship banner and a trophy. Second place, which included $8,000 and a trophy, went to the team from Flying Dust First Nation while the third-place spot and $6,000 were claimed by the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Urban. Fourth place and $4,000 went to the Goodfish Lake First Nation Flames.