West Coast kids from across the region excitedly packed around Wickaninnish Community School on Friday, July 7, to take part in Brendan Morrison’s annual kids ball hockey game in Tofino.
“It’s a great community event. It brings people together. It’s active, it’s healthy and the most important thing is it’s fun. You see the smiles on the kids’ faces being outside running around and it’s just a good healthy thing to do,” Morrison told the Westerly News at the school’s outdoor court.
The event is held as part of Morrison’s Tofino Saltwater Classic fishing derby and while the derby was cancelled this year, the former Vancouver Canucks star said it was important to keep the kids’ event going.
“Even though we cancelled the fishing portion of the derby this year we wanted to keep the spirit of the event alive and keep momentum going,” he said. “It’s a good community event to get everybody together and have fun. It reminds me of being a kid growing up in the cul de sac in front of my house playing hockey.”
He said the ball hockey game has “really evolved and grown” over the years, noting the roughly 60 happy kids in attendance and noted former participants have come back to volunteer their time to help the game grow.
“I appreciate all the time and energy that people put into this event. This is not my event, it’s a community event and it seems to be growing every year. It’s great to see old faces and we’re still getting new faces that are coming in and being a part of it which is fun,” he said.
The kids all received event T-Shirts, as well as mini hockey sticks and Morrison took the time to put his autograph on whatever they handed him after the hockey was done.
“We have a phenomenal support system with the Tofino Saltwater Classic. The event does not happen without our volunteer group,” Morrison said. “Any time we’ve ever asked for help we’ve had multiple people step up and contribute their time and energy and it just makes for an overall better experience.”
Canadian surfing legend and local dad Pete Devries told the Westerly News the event is a great way to get the community together and offers a taste of organized sport that he feels is lacking in the community.
“There’s not a lot of community things to do in Tofino, I feel like, not a lot of organized sports,” he said. “Obviously having a rink and a pool would be amazing out here. I know from experience, my son plays hockey, and we do a lot of travelling for that and having that team camaraderie and building as a team throughout a season is a really valuable experience growing up and a valuable experience for all aspects of life. I think it’s a really important thing to have as a community and we’re really fortunate to have Brendan here putting on this event and hopefully it will grow into something great.”
Devries also expressed support for the West Coast Multiplex project which would bring a swimming pool and ice rink facility to the region.
“I think it would be awesome to have something like that out here. I go to all these small towns all over the Island and they’ve all got a pool and a rink and they’re just great community places for everyone to get together, get exercise and have something to do when it’s pouring rain and dark in the winter,” he said.
The West Coast Multiplex Society had a tent pitched at the event offering free hats and shirts and dishing out ice cream after the hockey was done.
“We’ve been a very lucky and supported non-profit organization from the Saltwater Classic over the years from day-one, so we are always trying to give back to the event,” West Coast Multiplex Society chair Samantha Hackett told the Westerly News at the tent. “This ball hockey event is a great event for us to come and see all our local families that are big supporters of the project…And we’re supporting this amazing recreation event that really is, I think, a good example of why we need the multiplex. Visibility is always a priority and finding things that also fit what we’re all about, which is health and wellness and recreating on the West Coast.”
Bobby Lax of the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild was delighted to bring fresh fruit for the participants and experience the joy at the event.
“Kids are just running around chasing the ball having a great time playing together,” he said.” That’s the purest form of our joy, playing. I think it’s just a step along the path of being more familiar with each other and being more connected as a community…It’s getting people together, getting good exercise, having good snacks and having a reason to be in the same place.”
He noted the TUCG delivers food to the school for the free lunch program, which has been consistently supported by the Saltwater Classic’s fundraising efforts.
“That school lunch program, everybody at the school knows, is not what it is if the Saltwater Classic and the people behind it didn’t have that vision,” he said.
“They’re a huge funder. They chose the school and that’s something super close to our heart. It’s a place where we love making a difference with food so it is a no-brainer for me to throw a few snacks in, put out some trays and support the kids’ energy in a good way here.”
He added “a huge thank you” to the Morrison family and the core group of volunteers who have kept the Saltwater Classic’s fundraising strength humming.
“I just want to make it clear in the community how important this derby is and how pure of a motivation the crew has,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how sincere the motivation for them putting this on and raising over $800,000 over 13 years for different organizations in our community, but starting with the school and the lunch program, which is obviously the closest thing to my heart, both with the culinary guild and with a daughter in the school.”
The Saltwater Classic is still fundraising through an online auction that will run until July 18 and can be found at elevateauctions.com/TofinoSaltwaterClassic.
More information about the event and its beneficiaries can be found at www.tofinosaltwaterclassic.com.