INNISFAIL - For the first time in three years a vital spring community tradition to help under-privileged kids have a chance to play minor sports is back in play.
The 25th Annual Dean Turnquist Spring Fever Road Hockey Tournament is set for action at the Innisfail Twin Arena on April 9 and 10.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the annual event since the last successful one in 2019. The planned 25th anniversary was scheduled for 2020. However, with that cancellation, as well as the one in 2021, the 25th anniversary tournament will finally be played in 2022.
“We are pretty excited. We had done a lot of groundwork to host the one in 2020, which would have been the 25th,” said Turnquist.
“We were pretty disappointed that things happened the way they happened and we weren’t able to put our events on. We’re pretty excited to finally be able to host this event and put it on. I’m extremely grateful for all the people who have helped along the way."
He added that there have been about 20 community members throughout the years who have ensured the event was held.
“I am very proud of all the work we have done to put these events on, and also the money that has been raised that goes back into the community," he said.
Turnquist, 49, estimates more than $300,000 have been raised in the annual road hockey tournaments for the Helping Hand Fund, which was established in 1997 in conjunction with the road hockey tournament with a mission to provide children from financially challenged families with the opportunity of participating in Innisfail’s minor sports programs.
Families of under-privileged kids who need Helping Hand Fund support for a minor sports program can apply at any time of the year through the website www.helpinghandinnisfail.ca.
The organization’s committee then makes a decision on all requests. However, Turnquist said he does not believe any request has ever been turned down.
“I know we have helped more than 100 individual kids in the community, and quite a few of those we have helped more than once where they have come back year after year for hockey fees or equipment or whatever it might be,” said Turnquist.
“We are pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been able to make sure kids can continue to play and be part of their community and not just at school.
“Kids who have played in this tournament as an eight-year-old in the kids’ side are now putting in teams and playing as adults in the adults’ side. That’s a pretty cool progression as well I think.”
Turnquist said for the upcoming 25th annual tourney he’s “absolutely” expecting at least a couple participants to be original ones from the first tourney, and maybe more who played in the original kids’ side of the tournament that began about 20 years ago.
The April 9 date will feature co-ed adults playing a four-on-four tournament beginning at 8 a.m. There is a $300 cost for each team registering.
Turnquist is hoping to get 16 teams for the adult side of the tourney. He said it’s “almost a guarantee” that at least 12 will register, with most coming from Innisfail as organizers do not “push” for teams outside the immediate area.
That night beginning at 7 p.m. there is a cabaret show at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion with rising local country-rock star Devin Cooper performing. The cost to see the show is $20 and all proceeds go to the Helping Hand Fund.
The next day on April 10 is all about the kids, with a maximum of 10 players per team in five different divisions - U7, U9, U11, U13 and U15.
Starting at about 8 a.m. the kids will play a three-on-three tournament. Turnquist is hoping to get 20 to 25 teams for the kids’ side, noting there was one past tournament when organizers were able to get 28 teams. There is a $30 registration cost for each player.