1st annual 'Heroes & Hockey' tournament finds new way to honour veterans in Marathon, Ont.

Remembrance Day will be marked a bit differently this year in the town of Marathon, in northwestern Ontario.

Players will hit the ice over the Remembrance Day weekend in an event supporting the local legion

Kris Skworchinski is one of the organizers of the first annual Heroes & Hockey Classic, taking place this Remembrance Day weekend in Marathon, Ont. (Alica Rice)

Remembrance Day will be marked a bit differently this year in the town of Marathon, in northwestern Ontario.

In addition to the annual ceremony and moment of silence this weekend in the community of about 3,500, residents also plan to honour veterans and support the local legion by hitting the ice. 

The first annual Heroes & Hockey Classic was dreamt up about a year ago by a group of hockey players looking for a way to revive their winter "old timers" league tournament, said organizer Kris Skworchinski.

It's really unfortunate to see where some of legions have come to and our group kind of said ... that wasn't going to happen in Marathon.- Kris Skworchinski , tournament organizer

"We just happened to be sitting at the legion," he said. "[We] saw on the wall all these pictures of the tradition of the military history in Marathon, and just kind of said to each other, 'why don't we do something around Remembrance Day and our veterans?'"

"It sort of snowballed from there."

This Remembrance Day weekend, about a dozen teams from Marathon, Thunder Bay, and other points around the region have registered for the tournament, which organizers hope will raise $10,000 a year over the next five or 10 years, for the Marathon legion. 

'Ambitious' fundraising goal

"We set ourselves a pretty ambitious number," said Skworchinski, adding that he hopes the money will help their legion to avoid some of the struggles faced by those in other small communities. 

A number of the vets returning home are going to play in the tournament- Roger Hamilton, vice president of the Marathon Legion

"It's really unfortunate to see where some of our legions have come to and our group kind of said to ourselves that wasn't going to happen in Marathon." 

The legion is "in dire need of being refurbished," said Roger Hamilton, the vice president of Marathon's Branch 183, adding that any funds will go a long way in helping with the renovations.

When the idea for the weekend tournament came up, Hamilton said he also thought it would be a great compliment to other local Remembrance Day events, especially for some veterans in town. 

"Actually this weekend, a number of the vets returning home are going to play in the tournament," he said, including those who served in Afghanistan.

This light armoured vehicle that transported soldiers in Afghanistan was recently acquired by people in Marathon to serve as a war monument in the community. It will also be central to this weekend's Remembrance Day events in the town. (Alica Rice)

Sports will halt for ceremonies

The hockey tournament has also been organized to boost other Remembrance Day activities in the community, said Skworchinski.

On Saturday morning, playing will be on hold so that everyone can attend the annual ceremony, which will be held in the arena instead of the legion this year — the bigger space will allow more people to attend. 

The weekend events will also include the dedication of a new Veteran's Square park featuring a light armoured vehicle which was used in Afghanistan, and was recently brought to the town to serve as a monument to those who served in that conflict. 

Skworchinski said he hopes it will all serve to help remind younger generations of Canada's war history.

He said he also hopes that a weekend of both pucks and poppies, with Remembrance Day at its core, will send a strong message to veterans. 

"Just to be able to say 'thanks guys,' ... you're not forgotten." 


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