There will be no 41st Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament in Port Alice this year.
Patrick Murray, one of the organizers for the longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island, broke the sad news on social media on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Murray stated the organizers asked the Village of Port Alice if the tournament could be held at the shuttered Doug Bondue Arena like it always has been (other than the one year it was held in Port Hardy in the 90s), but were told “no” by council, who, according to Murray, cited concerns over bringing in ammonia, loading and then evacuating the system after the ice is removed, the cost of hydro, and the financial burden on the taxpayers of the village.
Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron confirmed Murray’s statement, noting it was “very accurate with what today’s situation is without the financial backing of Neucel (Port Alice’s dormant pulp mill). Basically, we’ve had to streamline operations.”
Since the pulp mill shut down in 2015, the village has had to make numerous cuts to their operating budget, which included closing the arena for the 2018-2019 season (the rink did open for the 40th annual Oscar Hickes weekend in 2019, which cost $12,000).
Neucel still owes the village approximately two years worth of taxes (totalling around two million dollars), and Cameron stated there has been “nothing to this point” regarding any kind of payment from Neucel. “When the mill was running it brought in 28 million to the coffers for the island in general, with the majority of that being spent in Tri-Port,” Cameron added, noting that if things do change financially for the better in Port Alice, the annual Oscar Hickes weekend will definitely return once again.
‘Oscar Hickes’ was born Oscar Tootoo in 1952 in Churchill, Manitoba. He grew up playing hockey with his brothers and absolutely loved the sport.
Tootoo and his two best friends, Ray Carter and Bill Poole, moved to Port Alice in 1972. In August of 1978, Tootoo went to Vancouver to see a specialist to correct a knee injury so he could play hockey that winter.
The doctor informed him his playing days were over, and he passed away minutes later in his car from a heart attack. He was only 27-years-old.
The Oscar Hickes Memorial Hockey Tournament officially started that same year in Port Alice.