The Good Ol’ Hockey Game
How The Mac’s Midget AAA Hockey Tournament is more than just a sporting event
Kimberly McNulty, Contributor
Hockey arenas around Calgary have seen some of the best Midget hockey players from around the world compete for the Mac’s Midget AAA Championship. The tournament started on Boxing Day, finishing up on New Year’s Day at the Saddledome. For many of these teams, just making the tournament is a dream come true.
In the 38 years the Mac’s has been going on, it has seen its fair share of superstars play in the tournament, including the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Smyth and many more who would end up playing in the NHL. Many of the participants, both males and females, hope to be seen by the many scouts who often attend the games, in hopes of pursuing hockey at higher levels.
For Calgarians, The Mac’s Midget AAA tournament is a convenient way to watch some of the future stars of professional hockey. Hockey that can be watched live, all over the city, each and every year.
This year, for the first time in years, a Calgary team made the male finals. On New Year’s Day, the NW Calgary Flames won the Mac’s Midget AAA Championship against the Lloydminster Bobcats on the NHL Calgary Flames home ice.
The participants, kids ranging from 15-18 years old, compete over seven days of their holiday breaks from school, with hopes of hoisting that prized Mac’s trophy. At this age, hockey is still a fun game, a way to play a sport with friends and really enjoy something they love.
Before the games, the kids can be seen warming up over a game of soccer, making up fun handshakes and there is always a presence of laughter coming from the hallways near the dressing rooms.
During the games, players pass often, give teammates a tap on the back as needed and respect their coaches. Post game, opposing teams shake hands and always thank the officials. Even though this is considered minor hockey, sportsmanship is at its highest level at the Mac’s tournament.
Apart from the actual games over the weeklong tournament, there is a strong undercurrent of community and compassion that goes further than these rinks. Hundreds of volunteers come out every year to make the event run smoothly. Wearing the signature Mac’s vest, these volunteers can be seen hosting audiences, helping out the media and directing the many teams who make Calgary their temporary home for the holidays.
The Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament also provides awards and scholarships to many of the participants that exemplify skill and sportsmanship throughout their games.
Children’s Wish Foundation and Kids Cancer Care are two organizations who are directly involved with the Mac’s. The Children’s Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illness in hopes of making one of their most heartfelt wishes come true.
Last year, Shadee Merhi was a player for the Calgary North Stars AAA team who were competing for the 2014/2015 championships. Word got around through the tournament that the defensemen from the Calgary team had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and Children’s Wish Foundation was quick to contact the teenager in hopes of making his wish come true.
This year, Merhi was at the tournament as a viewer, and is planning to meet Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has said that he is grateful for the opportunity to play hockey, especially at the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament, and all the support he received from his teammates and the foundation.
Kids Cancer Care is an organization that works with families through the journey of battling childhood cancer by providing outreach and education through its various programs. Throughout the tournament, both organizations are present and the children representing them get to experience moments such as riding the Saddledome Zambonis on the ice during periods, meeting the players, being featured online and getting to know one another.
During my short term volunteering and watching the Mac’s, I was introduced to an older gentleman who has been coming to the tournament since its establishment 38 years ago. He described hockey as a game that encourages teamwork, is physically tough and requires a lot of skill. He doesn’t go to watch the NHL games, he doesn’t tune into the World Juniors, but he does come down each and every day the Mac’s tournament goes on to watch these young players give it their all and still have fun with it. The good ol’ hockey game.