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Brendan Morrison’s Tofino fishing derby nears $1M raised for local youth

The former NHL star and Vancouver Canucks legend launched the Tofino Saltwater Classic in 2009
Fishing was scratched from the Tofino Saltwater Classic’s menu in 2023, but that didn’t stop former Vancouver Canucks star Brendan Morrison from welcoming kids to a day of energetic fun as he hosted his annual ball hockey game. Tofino local Lochie Feaver, 9, was stoked to score an autograph from Morrison at the event. The fishing derby is set to return this year. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Brendan Morrison’s Tofino Saltwater Classic will make its 14th appearance this summer.

The former NHL star and Vancouver Canucks legend launched the event in 2009 and credits a long list of supporters and volunteers for growing the event into a massive source of community funding.

“To me it’s not a Brendan Morrison event, it’s the community of Tofino’s event. That’s what it’s morphed into and it happens only because of the people involved,” Morrison told the Westerly News. “It’s almost like a hockey team that has success. Everybody has a role and everybody’s accepted that role and they’re doing whatever they can to help the event or the team be better and it’s total selflessness by everybody involved. That’s the great thing.”

The event is nearing the $1M mark, having raised over $800,000 since its launch in 2009 with a long list of local beneficiaries including Wickaninnish Community School, Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society and the West Coast Multiplex Society.

“I want the Saltwater Classic to ultimately be a legacy program within the community that’s helped a lot of younger kids and given them some tools to experience things that maybe they wouldn’t have been able to experience before and hopefully they grow up and be great citizens in the community and the world,” Morrison said.

He added the Wickaninnish Community School’s hot lunch program has seen massive success thanks to the funding raised.

“It’s had a direct correlation to kids’ attention spans increasing and, in turn, marks are going up in school and that is the ultimate. When you hear direct results like that, that’s what we’re in it for. A lot of these grassroot programs are especially aimed at kids to benefit and, when you’re seeing things like that happening, it really just lights you up,” he said.

He said he never thought the derby would become such a massive source of grassroots funding when he first launched it over a decade ago.

“It was just, ‘Let’s start this and see where it goes.’ That was kind of the mindset. We thought the community would get behind it, but we had no idea it would be to this extent. It’s been awesome. It’s been a great thing to be a part of,” he said. “It’s bigger than just fishing. It’s giving back to the community and to so many different beneficiaries that ultimately impact the lives of young kids.”

Last year’s fishing derby was cancelled due to road closures caused by wildfires near Cameron Bluffs, though the annual kids ball hockey game still went ahead and Morrison is excited to welcome fishers back to Tofino this year. The fishing derby has traditionally been a two day event over the weekend, but will be compacted into a one-day Saturday event on July 6 this year from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. with prizes awarded for the heaviest hatchery chinook and heaviest legal halibut.

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The event had run on a catch and release basis for the past few years, but is going back to a retention model though only hatchery salmon will be eligible for weigh in.

Registration is open and being managed by event partner Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and can be done through the Trust’s website at

Anyone looking to support the event through donations or volunteering can find opportunities to do so at

An online auction is set to reel in additional funding, running from July 4-11 at

Morrison is an avid fisher and host of the fishing series Reel West Coast and said Tofino offers gloriously diverse angling opportunities steeped in breathtaking scenery.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate to fish in a lot of different places, not only in British Columbia, but places around the world,” he said. “The fishing (in Tofino) is world class for salmon and halibut…I’m probably a little bit biassed because I do most of my fishing out of Tofino. It’s such a diverse fishery and you have the backdrop of Clayoquot Sound. When you’re offshore and you’re looking back at Clayoquot, it’s almost like Jurassic Park with these huge peaks and old growth forests. It really is spectacular.”

The annual ball hockey game is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, July 5, at Wickaninnish Community School and Morrison has been stoked to see the game’s popularity has “really blown up” since its inception.

“Word of mouth has got around so it’s great. It’s such a young community of kids in Tofino, so to get them all together and out having fun is important,” he said. “It’s a way to connect with the kids. I get these kids have no idea who I am as far as my past career being a hockey player. I totally understand that. But, for me, encouraging them to get outside, get some fresh air, get some exercise chasing the ball around and, more importantly, just interacting with each other, that’s the biggest reason.”

Morrison’s love of Tofino began at a young age when he would visit the community frequently as a kid and it’s now a special place for his own kids.

“I just like the vibe in Tofino. You have such a different group of people. There’s people who are generational there and there’s people that are fairly new,” he said.

“The mindset overall is kind of the same. They want to be there. They want to be outdoors. They enjoy the ocean. They enjoy that active, healthy lifestyle whether it’s surfing or being out on your boat fishing or going back into Clayoquot Sound and exploring, beachcombing, all these things. People really don’t care what your background is, where you came from, there’s just a unique mentality there. They’re all there doing their own thing and everybody respects everybody else for the most part. I think the common goal is just being outdoors and enjoying your best life.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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