A 26.92 lb. chinook earned Ryan Erickson the Tofino Saltwater Classic’s $6,000 top prize on Sunday. The Tofino local was all smiles as he received his award from the Classic’s creator Brendan Morrison. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

VIDEO: Brendan Morrison’s Tofino Saltwater Classic passes $500,000 raised

This year’s fundraising fishing derby raised a whopping $80,000.

The Tofino Saltwater Classic reeled in an impressive bounty of community funding over the weekend.

This year’s ninth annual fundraising fishing derby raised a whopping $80,000, bringing the total amount the event has netted for local community initiatives since its inception to $500,000. A full list of the 15 community initiatives this year’s funds will go to can be found at www.TofinoSaltwaterClassic.com.

“Even after nine years, I am touched and inspired by the enthusiasm of our derby’s participants and the generosity of our volunteers and supporters,” said the derby’s creator, and former National Hockey League star Brendan Morrison through the announcement. “Surpassing the half-million-dollar total funds raised goal is a significant achievement and is a rewarding milestone for everyone who has helped to make the Saltwater Classic a great success. We look forward to continuing what has become an enjoyable and impactful tradition next year.”

Morrison launched the Saltwater Classic as a way to raise funds for local community initiatives through derby registration fees, a silent auction and private donations from residents and business owners from around the province.

“With its ever-increasing financial support for important programs that may not be possible otherwise, the Tofino Saltwater Classic continues to have a substantial and positive impact on our community,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne. “A heartfelt thank-you to Brendan and Erin Morrison and the derby’s participants for their continued dedication to this long-standing event, and to the many volunteers and local and regional businesses who make it possible.”

Prior to the derby’s kickoff, Morrison hosted his annual Kids Ball Hockey Game for local youth at Wickaninnish Community School on June 6.

“I love to get out and interact with the kids, have some fun and put some smiles on some faces,” he told the Westerly News at the event. “These kids are so energetic. They can’t wait to get out here and chase the ball around and they’re a little bit competitive too, which makes it exciting and you see them kind of getting after it. The main thing is everyone’s smiling and having a good time.”

Morrison said he enjoys seeing local youth getting excited about sports.

“A big part of why I like to do this is I think sport is a key part of a lot of kids lives. The characteristics they learn at an early age, they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, such as being a good teammate, accountability [and] work ethic. There’s so many different things that go into it…You’re, kind of, implanting these traits that will help them be successful.”

Morrison became a Tofino local after wrapping up his impressive NHL career, though he had been a frequent visitor to the West Coast since childhood and, in fact, even earlier as he’s seen photographs of his parents hiking through the community while his mother was pregnant with him.

He added his visibility as a former NHL star offers opportunities to make an impact on the community.

“I love Tofino first and foremost and, with my former job being a professional hockey player, sometimes you’re kind of put on a pedestal. Whether that’s right or wrong…you have an opportunity to maybe make a difference and people will rally around some of your initiatives,” he said.

“I’m just a regular guy. I’m a dad. I’m a local. I’m a fisherman…Sure, my name is behind [the Saltwater Classic], but I don’t see it that way at all. This is Tofino’s fishing derby. Everybody in the community is onboard. The amount of time that people put into this event is astronomical and there’s no way it would have this success without the local people stepping up and being apart of it, and people that come from other parts of the world and the country to help support it.”

The Saltwater Classic also announced that next year’s event will run from July 6-8.

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