Back in elementary school, the dismissal bell was music to many kids’ ears. Everyone rushed home to get in a few hours of fun before dinner.
Street hockey was often the sport of choice. Easy to set up and take down, kids would play for hours in the heat, rain or snow, long after dark, and usually under the glow of the streetlights.
Do you miss those days, where your troubles slipped away and all that mattered in life was finding a way to put a ball into the back of the net?
Now there is the opportunity to relive your youth again. Hockey Night in Canada presents Play On, a four-on-four street hockey tournament that has all the makings of the greatest street game you will ever see.
Play On has been taking over the streets of Canadian cities since 2004, but this is its first time in Saskatoon.
“It’s over the past two years that it’s really started to grow,” said event director Jeff Dzikowicz. “The whole structure of the event has evolved into something people really like doing.”
Play On is not just a street hockey tournament for the everyday hockey fan. Rather, it’s a competitive tournament and celebration of all things hockey.
Dzikowicz compares the event to a cross between a summer festival, a softball tournament and a parade. The event closes down 1st Avenue North between 24th Street and 26th Street, and features 10 street hockey rinks, interactive sponsor booths, prizes, giveaways and a celebrity game featuring Sheldon Brookbank of the Anaheim Ducks.
“This is the type of thing all Canadians should be doing more often,” said Dzikowicz. “It’s a whole different crowd downtown.”
There are separate conferences and divisions for genders and ages. Divisions fall into three categories: adult elite, adult street and youth street. The cost of entry was $190 to $250 for a team of five players.
The future of the event in Saskatoon will depend on how many teams sign up. Dzikowicz says they’re hoping for 150 teams. At time of print, there were over 100 teams, with deadline for registration at midnight on Aug. 26. Bigger centres like Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver have over 200 teams.
Still, Dzikowicz is optimistic for Saskatoon.
“This is the first year and the first year is a big marker as to whether it’s going to continue into future years. We test out a market and if it gets to 100 teams we’ll do it again.”
The event allows people young and old to experience street hockey, whether it’s for the first time ever or for the first time in a while.
The action starts at 8 a.m. on Aug. 29. The elite winners and finalists from tournaments across the country will have the opportunity to compete for the Redwood Cup and the title of Canada’s Greatest Street Hockey Players in Victoria, B.C., on Jan. 29 and 30.