Paying it forward
Fourth annual Cooper Nemeth Hockey Memorial returns to Gateway Rec Centre
In hockey, as in life, Brent Nemeth believes in working hard and giving back.
That’s one reason why the longtime AA hockey coach and North Kildonan resident organizes the Cooper Nemeth Hockey Memorial, an annual event that brings together some of the best AA hockey players and coaches from Winnipeg and the surrounding area at the end of the hockey season. Four “all-star” games — at the U13, U15, and U18 levels, and one featuring alumni — will be held on Saturday, March 25 at Gateway Recreation Centre. Proceeds will go to Hockey Winnipeg’s Cooper Nemeth Memorial Assistance Fund, which helps players cover some of the costs of playing high level hockey.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Nemeth said. “I think we’ll have around 145 players from Winnipeg, Selkirk, Oak Bank, the southern part of the city and rural areas. Every area in Hockey Winnipeg is represented.”
The other reason he does it is to pay tribute to the memory of his son Cooper, who was murdered in 2016.
“This is how we can remember him and still give back to the community,” Nemeth said. “It means a lot for our family. All the help we received when we needed it from the hockey community was all unasked. This is our thanks to all those people, and the people of the future as well. It’s very important to us.”
Cooper played AA hockey with the River East Marauders and spent much of his free time over Gateway, which is across the street from the Nemeth’s home. After his death, in 2017, Angie Beaque, a fellow hockey parent suggested to the Nemeth family that they host a memorial hockey day in Cooper’s honour. In March 2018, the first annual Cooper Nemeth Hockey Memorial was held, with a second annual event held in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the third annual event cancelled at the last minute in 2020, but it returned last year and was a big success.
“Last year, it was a fantastic year,” Nemeth said. “I believe we had just shy of $18,000 we gave Hockey Winnipeg, which goes to good use. It helps players play that next level where previously they couldn’t.”
This year’s format will follow that of the past few years, with the U13 game at 11 a.m., U15 at 1 p.m., U18 at 3 p.m., and the alumni game, featuring players Cooper played with growing up and previous participants, at 5 p.m.
“There will be a lot of good talent at every age,” Nemeth said. “We want people to come out and check it out. It’s a fun day. We have coaching staff from all over the city, too, taking part. The more spectators, friends, and family the better.”
Nemeth prides himself on making the experience as positive and memorable as possible for players, parents, and spectators.
“We just try to make everything as professional and fun for them again this year,” he said. “Especially the dressing room set-ups and those things.”
Along with the action on the ice, spectators can expect “fantastic” silent auction prizes and 50/50 draws for each game, as well as plenty of giveaways. Spectators are asked to pay a $5 entry fee, while kids under 12 get in for free.
“It’s a very busy day, for sure,” Nemeth said. “But I’m happy the players come out and do this and put on a show for the spectators.”
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112