Haida Gwaii Islanders won their first game ever during the Old Timers Hockey Association tournament in Prince Rupert. Then they just kept winning.
By the end of the three-day tournament from Oct. 28 to 30, they were the victors of all three of the games they played.
“Maybe we had won a game way back many years before I started playing, but that was the first time for most of us that we had ever actually won or even been close,” said Behn Cochrane, who has been playing for the Islanders for six years.
Eight men’s teams entered the tournament and each played one game per day.
They did not each play all of the teams and there were no finals so there was no champion of the tournament, it was more of a social event. However, the less competitive nature of the tournament did not dampen the Islanders’ excitement after winning their games.
“Honestly, it was like winning the Stanley Cup to me,” Cochrane said.
The Islanders’ team is a men’s over-35 team. The team was made up of eight players from Haida Gwaii and four borrowed players from other northwest communities.
There is one obvious disadvantage for the Haida Gwaii skaters. Haida Gwaii does not have an ice rink.
“So we just play roller hockey,” Cochrane said. “Probably about five of us are regular roller hockey players.”
One of the players, Alan Moore, was born and raised on Haida Gwaii and had never played an organized game of hockey before the Prince Rupert event, Cochrane said.
The Islanders have been attending the tournament as a team for years.
“In the past, we’ve been beaten pretty handily, most games we usually lose by eight to 10 goals. So this was the first time that we’d ever even just been close in a game for the majority of the game,” Cochrane said.
“The intensity of that feels really good as well, whether we would have won or lost, just to be in more of an intense hockey environment was huge for a lot of us in it.”
While the first game was novel because it was their first win, the second game, on Saturday, was the most exciting, Cochrane said.
They were playing the Firefighters from Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert. The Islanders had a 5-3 lead when, with two minutes left in the game, the Firefighters scored.
“It was just really an intense end of the game because they were putting the pressure on pretty heavy and there were players on the Firefighters team that were quite good. They have a couple of players who used to play for the Rupert Rampage,” Cochrane said.
“So it was pretty cool. None of us could really believe it.”
The team was still in awe on Sunday when they had a chance to watch the Firefighters play from the stands.
“None of us could really fathom that we had beat that team. It just didn’t make much sense to us.”
Cochrane said their goalie, Jason Wilson, kept them in the games. He was one of the players that was not from Haida Gwaii and he ended up playing for a number of teams in the tournament.
“He was top-notch,” Cochrane said.
While many of the Prince Rupert players scored the teams’ goals during the tournament, during the last game it was Cochrane and Moore who scored the only two goals, leading the team to beat Terrace 50 2-0.
The Islanders brought their own miniature Stanley Cup out onto the ice to celebrate their successes.
“I think we were the talk of the tournament. We’ve been going many years now and it’s never close but we’re the happiest guys just to be smelling and touching the ice,” Cochrane said.
“Like after the last game guys stayed on the ice to get their last turns on the ice because we won’t play on ice again until maybe the next tournament.”