Barry’s Bay — Opeongo Heritage Cup commissioner Johnny Kashub (a.k.a. David Shulist) was a tired man Sunday afternoon after a successful return of the annual tournament, but he took the time to share his excitement about its return after a year away last year.
“It’s like all the previous ones here, very successful,’ he told the Leader. “It’s great to see the families come out, we saw children as young as one to 99-year-olds.
“The numbers are up as far as people coming through, so I think it was a successful weekend.”
Wile everyone across the Valley woke up Sunday to one of, if not the largest snowfalls of the winter, it did not affect the crowds.
“People love hockey and there’s no way a snowstorm is going to stop them,” he remarked. “They were here.”
Mr. Kashub expressed his gratitude to the Barry’s Bay and Area Minor Hockey Association (BBAMHA) for hosting a similar tournament last year after the heritage committee had to cancel.
“Sometimes when events take break, they can lose the flavour, so hats off definitely to minor hockey. They basically saved the tournament from going down in attendance or even the appeal of it.”
He said while the Irish Shamrocks had won six previous Heritage Cup championships, it was nice to see the Algonquin Thunderbirds, who had won three pervious titles, back in the final Sunday.
“All four teams really are very competitive and all of the matches were close. The Algonquins were strong a few years back, and this shows they’re coming back.
“And the Irish are always in it,” he added.
Mr. Kashub said the fact all four teams are a mix of rookies and veterans bodes well for the future and the individual success of the teams.
“Definitely, we’re looking at the future being really bright,” he said.
As for the gentlemen’s division, he said it’s not too often that either the Irish Shamrocks or the Kashubian Griffins sweep all three games in the 35, 45, and 55-plus, as the Shamrocks did this year.
He noted the play in the women’s division continues to improve, noting Sunday’s final between the Thunderbirds and Griffins was a very entertaining and well-played game.
“It was absolutely great final, and even the games in the round robin were close.
“What we saw in the beginning (in 2006) to what we see now, totally different calibre,” he added. “So we’re really pleased and the fans are coming out to see those games because they’re entertaining.”
Mr. Kashub said it’s also great to see the BBAMHA add the minor hockey showcase on Thursday evening where the teams also represent their various heritages.
“It’s a great addition and it shows great leadership by minor hockey. They saw an opportunity and they’re now capitalizing on it.
“All money from that goes to their organization,” he added. “And from a Heritage Cup perspective, that’s the future and they‘re helping out.”
Mr. Kashub said he was sorry to learn Irish General Manager Dan Conway had decided to resign.
“He has put his time in since 2006 right from the beginning and it‘s much appreciated. ” he said. “Sometimes you just need a break and I’m hoping somebody will step up.
“And I’m sure they will because they want to keep this thing going. He has won some championships and I’m sure you’ll see him around the arena.”
Mr. Kashub thanked Chris (Chummy) Gienow for overseeing the officials for the tournament.
“There were no complaints about refereeing,” he said.
He also thanked the numerous volunteers from the four heritage societies (Wilno Heritage Society, Combermere Heritage Society, Killaloe Heritage Society, and Zurakowski Park Committee) for their efforts, saying the tournament would not be possible without them.
Honouring Late Captains
On Friday evening, the Kashubian Griffins honoured their late captain, Mark Yakabuski by retiring his jersey and raising a banner with his name to the rafters of the arena named after his late father, Paul, a former reeve of Barry’s Bay and MPP for Renfrew South.
“The Griffins honoured Mark by giving his jersey to his wife, April, and also unveiled the banner.”
Mr. Yakabuski, the brother of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski, passed away in May 2018 at the age of 44.
Sadly, on Friday, many in the Valley also learned of the passing of another former Griffins captain, Terry (Clem) Bozack, who died Friday while playing hockey in a tournament in Chapeau, Quebec. Mr. Bozack had taken a regular shift and had returned to the bench where he collapsed and died. He was 64.
“During the opening ceremonies for the 55-plus game on Saturday morning, we had a moment of silence for Terry,” Mr. Kashub said. “Everyone is in shock but he ended up losing his life playing the game he loves.
“He was supposed to play for us on Saturday and the sad news was he had passed on. He was an athlete all around, in any sport.”