No one I spoke to knows exactly how many years the Tournament of Aces has been held at East St. Paul Arena but my boys played in it and my granddaughter will be old enough to play in it next year. That’s a long time.
For those of you who don’t know, hockey teams from ESP are usually named Aces and their jerseys reflect this through a dynamic logo of the four suits in playing cards.
The tournament is a month-long affair, run by a volunteer executive and parents. All money raised goes into programs at our arena, including figure skating, baseball, soccer and of course, hockey.
I met tournament director Kyle Wingate and Pete Unrau in the ‘Tournament room.’ Kyle has been involved in this event for eight years — running it for four. Pete supervises games and players’ needs from this converted dressing room. There are boxes stacked against the walls, more yet on tables and walls papered with schedules and lists. It’s an organized chaos that Pete has overseen for the past six years.
There are 25 teams of 6-and-under players and 20 teams in the 7 & 8 division. The tournament used to host more age groups but that has changed due to Winnipeg Minor Hockey regulations. Years ago, there were only a few teams from our community but this year we have a very impressive showing of 11 teams in the two groups. Most of the other teams are from the Kildonans and Transcona but there are a couple from St. Vital and one from downtown Winnipeg.
Besides the minimum four games there are weekend activities other than hockey to entertain players and their families. There’s also an adult social with casino games for parents and other volunteers.
Essentially the tournament is a six-day-per-week party (figure skaters get the ice on Thursdays) run by a huge group of volunteers, including eight or nine who put in countless hours for months prior to the event. The schedule alone took 96 man hours to complete!
Pete still has one son, Darvic, playing in the tournament. His other children have outgrown this event. Kyle no longer has kids participating and explains that he would have stepped down, but when he heard the tournament was floundering he decided to step up.
Thanks to Kyle and his passionate and dedicated volunteers for keeping an East St. Paul institution thriving.
Cher Hebert is a community correspondent for East St. Paul. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.