For more than 25 years, the Sudbury 80's Tournament marked the date.
When the event became no longer viable, the torch was passed, unofficially of course, to the Big Nickel Hockey Tournament.
So whether you start just before Halloween, or just after candy day for the kids, the reality is that from roughly that time forward, right through until about the March break, the Greater Sudbury region will be home to typically one, and sometimes two, minor hockey tournaments on each and every weekend of the winter.
Sure, there are some exceptions.
The two week stretch surrounding Christmas and New Year's is bypassed, at least since a time dating back to when the Silver Stick Hockey Tournament was a holiday season mainstay. And there are times when hockey shares the spotlight.
This upcoming weekend sees the Valley East Minor Hockey Association hosting their annual Peewee-Bantam-Midget houseleague tournament, while the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex plays host to the Sudbury Invitational Ringette Tournament.
Either way, pretty much every single playdown that will be contested will result in more than their fair share of very special memories for individuals and teams alike.
"I was shaking at the end," said 11 year old Logan Massicotte, still smiling ear to ear this past Sunday morning. He and his Valley Outdoor Power Equipment teammates had already endured one five minute overtime session with the Rayside-Balfour Cousin Vinny's IceCats, with the teams back out there for another five minute three on three showdown.
And in the blink of an eye, it was over.
"Tyson (Koper) took a shot, and then there was a rebound and it went to me, and then I grabbed it and backhanded it," recalled Massicotte of the game-winning goal, the grade six student at Jean-Paul II accounting for all of his team’s scoring in a 2-1 semi-final win. "The goalie was completely on the other side and I had the puck."
"I was controlled and gave it a little backhander."
It was of little surprise that this match-up should remain close, with the Valley crew apparently possessing some inside knowledge of their opponents. "Our coach knew that there were some fast players on their team, he had coached in Rayside before," explained Massicotte. "He told us that we should be playing as a team, and passing, and a lot of the regular stuff."
A subsequent 4-2 loss in the Peewee final to the North Bay Police Association Trappers was not about to spoil this day for the avid young hockey lover, as Austin Barnard scored twice for the winners, with Kendall Cosgrove and Brody Pharand adding solo markers, while Dylan Hawes and Owen Gatchell replied for the Valley.
In the Atom championship affair, the Onaping Falls Huskies spotted the Sudbury Thunderbirds a 1-0 first period lead, with Maksim Rybiak finding the back of the net, before storming back with a pair of second period markers (Kaden Deveau, Emerson Demers), lifting the Huskies to a 2-1 win.
The Bantam final, later in the afternoon, required a shootout to settle things as the Scotiabank IceCats edged the Scotiabank TigerCats in an all Rayside-Balfour affair. Carson Robert buried a hat trick for the winners, with Justin Girouard credited with the game-winning goal, while Aiden Purvis, Dylan Hamelin and Ethan Labelle countered for the TigerCats.
Finally, the Rayside-Balfour Scotiabank Midget TigerCats rode a balanced attack to a 7-2 gold medal game victory over the Nickel Centre Blast, as Marc-Andre Pilon, Noah Garbutt, Joel Robillard, Matthew Gordon, Kayden Spadafore, Jacob Gaudet and Cedrick Jutras all found the back of the net for the host team.
And it wasn't like the hockey tournament scene was limited to just the arenas in Chelmsford and Azilda. Over in Copper Cliff and Walden, it was the high school lads who would be gathering, taking part in the Cardinal Classic.
While there were a few surprises through preliminary round play, the expected contenders ultimately rose to the challenge, as both the Horizon Aigles and St Charles College Cardinals punched their tickets to the finals.
Horizon received goals from Evan Byers, Andrew Demers, Samuel Saumure and Caleb Rainville in the semis, upending the Central Algoma Huskies 4-1 (Michael Shaw - CASS), while the Cards rolled over the Korah Colts 6-0, as Ryan Teddy recorded the shutout.
Nick Faught paced the offense with a two goal effort, with singles coming from Brendan Weber, Riley Bridge, Matthew Vehkala and Jordan Faught, setting the stage for a much anticipated showdown.
"There was a lot of excitement in the room," noted Jordan Faught, the smooth-skating grade 11 forward who earned tournament MVP honours for SCC. "We really wanted to prove ourselves against this team. There was a lot of talk about them being the top team in the league, and we really wanted to prove that we are the top team."
At least for the time being, St Charles will hold fort at the top of the mountain. The Cardinals stopped the Aigles 3-1, with Nick Faught, Brendan Weber and Riley Bridge hitting the mark, and Ryan Teddy enjoying another strong outing between the pipes.
After being upset by the Lo-Ellen Park Knights in the city finals last spring, the perennial powerhouse that is St Charles College is clearly in search of redemption. "We definitely lost a couple of key veterans, which is tough, but I feel that after this weekend, this team really built quickly," said Jordan Faught.
"We all get along well in the dressing room, we all play the system, we connected really well."
And like most of his Cardinal teammates, Faught does benefit from a hockey resume that has included a fair bit of competitive experience on the ice, though not necessarily with the same setting that the high school games can provide.
"When I was playing AA but I was at the school, I was coming to watch the games," he said. "The excitement, with the school coming around, watching the team, it was so much fun. The crowds are packed, the energy was wild. It really got my attention, for sure."