Playing for a trophy dating back to 1979, 11 old-timer hockey teams from across the territory bound on Whitehorse for a chance to hold the top prize.
The Whitehorse Oldtimers Hockey League hosted their annual tournament this past weekend at the Canada Games Centre and Takhini Arena with the 11 teams split into an A division tournament and a B division tournament with two winners.
Longtime tournament organizer and league board member Doug Janzen said the organizers divide the teams into the divisions based on skill and where they feel the teams will be most competitive.
The A tournament, known as the Sage Division, was a tournament that saw international and territorial competition.
Teams from Juneau, Carmacks and Dawson came down to Whitehorse for the tournament and were all entered in this division along with Yukon Inn – a team out of the league – and TNT and Rats, who were made up of players in Whitehorse and across the territory interested in playing in the tournament.
“Most of the teams kind of get together and say ‘Hey, who wants to play for us?’” Janzen said of the teams formed specifically for the tournament.
The O’Hagan Division tournament had three teams who don’t play in the league but get together to play recreationally and thought it would be a good experience to play in the tournament.
This included the Conservation Officers back for their second straight year.
In last year’s tournament, the Conservation Officers won the C division, but without one this year they were entered into the B division and continued their winning ways.
The team went undefeated in the round-robin portion of the tournament automatically advancing them to the final to take on Friday OT.
It was a low-scoring game that went down to the wire with the game tied at one apiece after the first period.
In the second period of two, the Conservation Officers took the lead with just over three minutes to go.
But not giving up, the Friday OT squad called a timeout with 25 seconds left, pulled their goalie, and executed a plan leading to a goal with 20 seconds remaining.
So it was off to overtime to decide the winner where Mark Broadhagen capitalized for the Conservation Officers leading them to their second straight tournament win, remaining undefeated.
With teams now coming from outside of Whitehorse, co-tournament organizer Mark Pike said that the tournament has grown since he first hopped on board.
“When it first started a long, long time ago it was just our internal league that played it,” he said.
For the past few years the tournament has sat around 12 teams, Pike said, and noted they wouldn’t be able to grow much larger than that as ice time would become an issue.
The six-team Sage Division was highly competitive, with none of the teams ending the round-robin with three wins.
Carmacks and Yukon Inn were the top two teams with two wins and a tie – against each other – and they met again in the final Sunday afternoon.
The teams from Juneau and Dawson went winless, but played several tightly-contested games with Janzen noting the competition was a lot closer in this tournament than in past years.
“The parity of this tournament worked out so well. This year there wasn’t any mercy games and we were quite pleased with that,” he said.
Carmacks and Dawson have frequently made teams to come down for the tournament, Janzen said, but this is the first time in several years Juneau has made the trip.
“Juneau has come over this year for the first time in a long time and we’re trying to get the sister city cup challenges going back and forth this year,” Janzen said.
He said a Whitehorse old-timers hockey team was scheduled to make the trip up Feb. 22 but was unable to as a result of inclement weather conditions.
With the young Yukon Rivermen watching from the sideline ahead of their game, Carmacks and Yukon Inn took to the Takhini Arena ice for the Sage Division final.
Based on a tie-breaker of the tied teams after the round-robin, Carmacks had to play in the semifinal game against the Rats, which they won to set up the rematch against Yukon Inn.
The two teams tied 2-2 in the round-robin.
It was a high-scoring affair from the drop of the puck with Carmacks off to a 1-0 lead less than four minutes in, which was matched by Yukon Inn four minutes later.
The Flyers from Carmacks got two quick goals back from Vernon Asp and Lance Brown to take a 3-1 lead, but Yukon Inn kept pushing back to close to a 4-3 gap at the end of the first.
In the second period, Yukon Inn shut the door defensively backed by goalie Breyin Wiens and kept up the offensive pressure to win the championship game 7-4.
With their name now engraved on the storied tournament trophy, the Yukon Inn team will return to the regular season of the league where they sit in second position behind Tim Hortons.
The regular season will continue for four more weeks before the playoffs for the eight-team league start April 4 and run until April 19.