At the start of his Tofino Saltwater Classic event in Tofino each year, Brendan Morrison invites local youth to a street hockey game. This year’s game will be held on July 14 at 11 a.m. outside Wickaninnish Community School. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

At the start of his Tofino Saltwater Classic event in Tofino each year, Brendan Morrison invites local youth to a street hockey game. This year’s game will be held on July 14 at 11 a.m. outside Wickaninnish Community School. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Brendan Morrison’s Tofino Saltwater Classic this weekend

“To look back over the past seven years and to see what the event has accomplished is amazing.”

From trademark dangling to philanthropic angling; Brendan Morrison’s successful transition from the ice to the ocean has brought big benefits to Tofino.

The former NHL star’s hugely popular Tofino Saltwater Classic fundraising fishing tournament will make its eighth annual appearance this weekend with roughly 125 fishers battling for the biggest catch between July 14-16.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” said the event’s coordinator Claire Watson. “In the last seven years, this event has raised over $350,000 for community initiatives in Tofino.”

The Classic’s bevy of local beneficiaries includes the Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society, Raincoast Education Society, Tofino General Hospital Foundation and Wickaninnish Community School.

“The Saltwater Classic is a terrific mix of passion for sport fishing with raising funds for some of Tofino’s most beloved causes,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne. “This event pulls together a tremendous team of local volunteers, businesses that donate to the silent auction, and organizers that pull this all together with every penny of profit going back to the community.”

Morrison told the Westerly News the idea for the Tofino Saltwater Classic was hatched when he and his family reached out to Wickaninnish Community School’s then-principal Brad Dusseault in search of strategies to help support the school.

“With our passion for fishing and the multiple fishing opportunities in Tofino, we felt it was a natural fit,” Morrison said. “Our family spends our entire summer in Tofino and we wanted to become a part of and engage the community. Personally, I have been coming to Tofino for over 40 years.”

Black Press and The Westerly News is a proud co-sponsor of the event, which sees all funds raised stay in the community and buoy local initiatives.

“Our goal was to help support several different programs that target the youth in the community as well as lending a hand to the Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society,” Morrison said.

“With the tremendous support we have received from the community of Tofino and anglers abroad, we have been able to have a positive impact on many different initiatives. It is fantastic to see we have had some anglers participate in every event to date while we are still attracting new ones every year. This is the only way to keep the event sustainable for the long term.”

He added he’s enjoyed watching his family’s initial idea blossom into a consistent community-strengthening tradition.

“There is no way this would have been possible without a determined, hard working team from the beginning as well as the support of the community,” he said.

“To look back over the past seven years and to see what the event has accomplished is amazing. Our family is extremely fortunate to be able to spend time in an amazing place like Tofino and to have the community rally around the TSC is a tremendous feeling.”

Osborne said the Morrison family’s commitment to their summertime home is inspiring.

“What I really appreciate about Brendan and his family founding the Saltwater Classic is their passion, generosity, and love for the community of Tofino,” she said. “As part-time residents, they are helping to raise the bar with respect to being able to give back to a community that they love being a part of.”

Thanks to a partnership with Surfrider Pacific Rim and Jamie’s Whaling Station, this year’s event aims to be as plastic-free as possible with Jamie’s supplying anglers with large, reusable stainless steel water bottles in an effort to cut down on single-use plastic consumption.

Watson, who along with being the Classic’s coordinator is also a Surfrider Pacific Rim volunteer, collaborated with the local Surfrider chapter’s chair Michelle Hall on the plastic-reducing initiative and were thrilled to see Jamie’s step up to support their idea.

“Claire and I discussed how we could work together and came up with the epic idea to eliminate plastic water bottles from the competition,” Hall told the Westerly.

“Creating systems together that support the environment and make new sustainable habits that become the norm for everyone is the way forward for all events and competitions, and hopefully will be carried into our daily lifestyles.”

She jokingly assured any fisher who says, ‘No,’ to disposable plastics will catch the biggest fish.

“Proven fact,” she laughed.

To celebrate the launch of the weekend’s event, Morrison is inviting local youth to a game of street hockey at Wickaninnish Community School on July 14 at 11 a.m.

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