Kitimat soccer fans were spoiled for choice during the Haisla Annual Soccer Tournament which ran from Friday until Sunday this weekend.
Seven men’s and six women’s teams from across the northwest competed in the tournament, battling it out over three days on two soccer pitches, at Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School and at Riverlodge.
The teams played a total of 23 games, 10 for the ladies and 13 for the men.
The competition was fierce and the standard of play was high. None of the Kitimat teams – the Haisla Braves, Haisla Thunder, Haisla Lightning, People of the Snow and a team from Rio Tinto BC Works – made it past the semi-finals.
While the Haisla Braves had a good lineup, the team lost five players to injury.
On Sunday, in the men’s division, the semi-final saw the teams from Prince Rupert and Terrace playing to an intense 1-1 draw when the final whistle went. Both teams, tired from playing in the scorching heat, had to line up for not just one, but two penalty shootouts.
The Terrace Providers narrowly won the second shootout, which put them into the final against Hazelton.
A rested Hazelton team annihilated the Providers, the end result a 5-0 loss for the Terrace team.
Top honours went to Hazelton, who won an Allstar award as well as Best Goalie, Prince Rupert, with two Allstar awards, and Terrace with an Allstar and the Best Defenceman award.
The final standings for the men’s division were Hazelton in first, followed by Terrace, Prince Rupert, Rio Tinto, Haisla Braves, Haisla Thunder, and Kitwanga in seventh.
In the women’s division, the final between Prince Rupert and Terrace Providers was a nailbiting affair, the final score 3-1 to Prince Rupert.
The semi-final between Kitwanga Wildcats and Prince Rupert was also a tense affair, the game going to Prince Rupert following another penalty shootout.
Prince Rupert took first place, with Terrace Providers in second, Kitwanga Wildcats in third and Haisla Lightning in fourth.
One of the organizers, Paul Gray, said the tournament was a reminder of years gone by when soccer was one of the most popular sporting codes in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village.
He said based on the interest shown in this year’s tournament – initially, 13 men’s teams were registered to play – the men’s and women’s matches will most likely be played on separate weekends in next year’s tournament.
“There are only so many referees in the region – they take half of them and we take half of them. The refs pretty much have to do the whole tournament – there’s no rest for them.”
He said the men’s games will most likely be played on the Canada Day weekend.
“We have to leave room for activities on July 1 though. Sometimes local teams like to play soccer matches like back in the old days. Every July 1 there used to be a mini-tournament which Kitimat always hosted,” said Gray.
He added that while the decision to host tournaments in Kitimat on July 1 again would probably not go down well with the organizers of tournaments outside the northwest, it was only fair that tournaments also be played locally.
“We spend thousands of dollars to go to tournaments in order for them to happen. People don’t mysteriously turn up at the tournaments.”
He said the organizers are looking to work together with the Kitimat Youth Soccer Association to get younger players – U8, U10 and U14 – into next year’s tournament.