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Winning about so much more than hoisting the hardware at SPHL Police Cup
2024-01-19
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Winners were everywhere to be found Sunday afternoon at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex as the 2024 SPHL (Sudbury Playground Hockey League) Police Cup tournament drew to a close.

Sure, in the very literal and competitive sport nuanced sense of the word, three Cedar Park Red Wings teams and a fourth squad adorned with the emblem of the Lo-Ellen Lightning would rejoice, championship banners raised high.

But in a setting that is about so much more than hockey, countless were those who would qualify as: “one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work” – just one of the definitions that the Webster Dictionary provides for the word “winner”.

Certainly the Sudbury Food Bank, grateful recipients of some 25 bins of food and cash donations nearing $6000 would seem to meet that criteria as players and coaches and families involved in any way, shape and form with the SPHL donated graciously all weekend long.

And the countless volunteers who embrace all that it is to be part of the organization that, in so many ways, pioneered the sport of hockey locally from the time of its birth back in 1952, would also easily rise to the standard that is expected and passed along from one group of core administrators to the next.

“The atmosphere, the people, they’re just amazing; I had to get involved,” beamed SPHL president Ernie Boeswald, now in his third year in this particular role but with a dozen winters of playground hockey fun behind him. “We moved from another organization and just fell in love with this.”

It’s certainly not all that difficult at all to find those who will echo the general sentiments that Boeswald espouses. “I’ve had three boys who have all played and I pump up the SPHL all over the place,” noted Lo-Ellen coach Steve Curich, a short while before his Bantam crew stepped on the ice and pulled off a mild upset to close off the festivities on Sunday.

“It’s all about the shere fun of the game,” he added. “We want to develop a respectful game.”

And while his primary goals do not necessarily deviate greatly from what so many coaches will say at all levels of hockey, these tenants appear to be far more taken to heart within the context of playground hockey.

“I tell all of the parents at the beginning of the year that I want three things out of the season for their kids: 1) I want them to have fun; 2) I want them to develop; 3) I want them to play againt next year,” noted Curich.

Boeswald and his board remain forever thankful for those who graps the bigger picture.

“It is competitive – but it’s not competitive,” he said. “It’s about creating a certain culture. So many things that we try to do help the families and the families in turn help each other. It’s evidenced (this weekend) with the food drive.”

And for as much as he recognizes that this formula is not unique, with many others across the country, across the globe looking to duplicate the mass buy-in from all those involved, Boeswald cherishes the ability to do all that he does in the place he calls home.

“Sudbury is a great community; everybody just pitches in,” he said. “I can’t believe how generous people are. The price of everything is going up and yet it’s amazing how people can dig down deep and offer their money and food and their time.”

“The people here are just amazing.”

There are so many layers to all that is the SPHL.

Sadly, in 2019, the league lost a long-time mainstay with the passing of Tom Watkins, a man who had served in a variety of capacities, but for many, many years as past-president. This year, his spirit lived on in the form of a constant reminder of what the SPHL meant to him.

“We thank his family, his wife Michelle, who allowed us to create a mascot (“Watkins”) in his memory,” explained Boeswald. “Watkins is a dog – and he’s kind of a stray dog. That’s kind of what our league is like, at those, welcoming those players who stray to us.”

“Any playground can borrow Watkins, because he belongs to all playgrounds. That’s what Tom wanted. That’s what he instilled in us.”

And that speaks to so much more than just the game of hockey.

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