by: Stuart Walter
Day one of competition for boys’ hockey is now in the books, meaning that the round robin is now over. It’s time for the quarterfinals and semifinals, all of which will take place over the course of the day. The boys and their coaches now have a better idea of how to work together as a team. They know what it will take for them to try and win their first game of the day, and then hopefully advance to the finals.
Let’s all step back from the competition to look at what makes hockey different than all of the other events at these 2018 Manitoba Games, powered by Manitoba Hydro.
Forget about the fact that the games, for the most part, are made up of two 20-minute periods rather than the normal three. Forget about the fact, for a brief moment anyways, that Hockey Manitoba is using this as a proving ground, so to speak, for the young men who want to represent the province at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer, AB. The thing that separates the hockey from everything else is the make-up of the teams.
The teams aren’t comprised of athletes entirely from the region. Take Team North for example. There’s four players from the Nor-Man region: Carter Anderson, Chase Bertholet, Justin Lies and Keilan Holland. Those four names being on the roster shouldn’t surprise anyone who remotely followed the Norman Wolves Bantam “AAA” side this season. Other names on the team would be a surprise, names like Tresor Wotton (Yellowhead), Cody Gudnason (Southwest), Michael Crave (Interlake) and Evan Phillippe (WPG Warriors). During the regular season, these young men are pitted against each other to compete for the league championship. They fight hard against each other in the corners, and try and beat each other at every chance they can get. Now they’re working together to try and win games and wearing the same colours.
This tournament forces these young men, who are still very much learning and growing, to play together to try and not only medal at these 2018 Manitoba Games and impress the scouts from Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Canada, the WHL and MJHL. The reason behind the format was to make sure that the top bantam-aged players in Manitoba come together for one tournament, but it’s also led to a valuable life lesson being taught to these athletes. Don’t get me wrong, the hockey being played here in Thompson during the games is the best bantam hockey in the province. These games are about more than that, though: it’s about the coming together of athletes from all across the province, and there is no better example of that than the hockey competition. These boys came to the tournament as a thrown-together team of regular season rivals, and will leave as a group of friends that could last a lifetime.