The Estevan Strippers 34th annual Molson ‘Spring Bust’ Tournament can be remembered as the largest, and arguably the most enjoyable, old-timer’s hockey tournament in Saskatchewan.
The Strippers annual tourney attracted a record 40 teams for a fun and competitive series of hockey games at Affinity Place, the Civic Auditorium and the Lignite Miners Centre from April 6 to 10. In total, 70 games were played over the five days between eight women’s teams and 32 men’s squads, including 12 in the aged 45-and-over division and 20 in the aged 30-and-over bracket.
“We came down to Estevan because we heard a lot about the Strippers tournament over the last 10 years,” said Regina Hooters player Don Beattie, whose team was competing in the tourney for the first time. “It’s a very hard tournament to get into, but we got lucky this year. We were fortunate and we will not miss it again. It was amazing.”
The Hooters finished second in the over-45 Bill Dutton Division despite tying the first-place Weyburn Ambassadors with five total points. However, Regina did exit the tournament with a win through beating the also new-to-the-tournament Melville Moneymen 5-4 at the Civic Auditorium on Sunday afternoon.
The tournament “was well put together with the teams matched up evenly,” said Beattie. “That’s what made it so much fun. You didn’t have anybody blowing anybody out 10-0. It was 3-2 games, 4-3 games, so the (Strippers) did very well with putting the teams together to balance things out.”
Also securing a first-place finish in the over-45 division were the Regina Slow Shots, which won the Ray Frehlick Division and their final game of the tourney 5-3 over the Estevan Viking 45s at the Lignite Miners Centre on Sunday, and the Woodley Whites, which took the Estevan Murray GM Division.
“The new teams were ecstatic that we got them into the tournament,” said Rick Rohatyn, an organizer of the Strippers tournament. “Regina couldn’t say enough and the Norquay girls were very happy and the Reston girls, a new team, they won the woman’s division.”
The Norquay Nighthawks dominated the Certified Energy Services Division outscoring the opposition 25-7. That production does pale in comparison to the Reston Westman Fusion’s record in the Century 21 Division sponsored by Terry Germain, which trounced the three other teams in their bracket with a combined total score of 23-3.
In the over-30 divisions, the Estevan Eclipse ran roughshod over the competition going 3-0 in their Westmoreland Coal Division before beating the Estevan Tap House Rookies, which placed second in the Einar/Rod Fagerheim Memorial Division, 5-3 in the cross-over game at Affinity Place on Sunday. The Avonlea Antiques, which took first place in the Einar/Rod Fagerheim Memorial Division, fell 7-0 to the Westmoreland Coal Division’s second seeded Souris Valley Sioux shortly before the Eclipse-Rookies game.
The Estevan Tower Wolves secured first place in the Days Inn Division, but lost 4-3 to the Tap House Division’s Estevan Vikings at the Civic Auditorium on Sunday. The Tap House Division first-place Regina Red Belly Piranhas also fell to a second seed on Sunday, losing 7-4 to the Days Inn Division’s Estevan Sharks. The Regina Elite Trenching Burbot captured the Preston Meyer Memorial Division in round-robin play, before disposing of the second-place Woodley Whites 9-5 in the championship game at Affinity Place on Sunday morning.
Rohatyn said staging a tournament of this size takes a tremendous amount of work starting with the setup of the Power Dodge Curling Centre to act as the hospitality room the day before the tourney begins and ending with the room’s takedown once the action on the ice comes to a close. He said it’s a full seven-day commitment from all of the members of the Strippers hockey team to host the event, but the community of Estevan is always there to support them in an effort to make the tournament one nobody wants to miss.
“This is the first tournament that we have been to in 10 years and we are just elated,” said Beattie. “We will be back next year and for every year they want to have us back.”