25 years and counting
The annual Wesley Gosse Memorial High School Hockey Tournament is always big event for Ascension Collegiate.
Held at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, some local hockey pundits might even say that winning the Wes Gosse shield is as coveted a prize as bringing home the AAAA provincial banner.
“It is as important to us as the provincial tournament is,” said current Astros coach Trevor Dixon. It’s a tournament Ascension has won 13 times.
It is a tournament named after Wesley Gosse, a former educator and high school hockey coach of Spaniard’s Bay. It was originally referred to as the Wesley Gosse Invitational Tournament, but with Gosse’s passing in 2009 at the age of 74, it became a memorial tournament.
Gosse was also a founding member of the Conception Bay North Minor Hockey Association (1968) and held various executive positions including coach, director and president from 1969-84. In 1968 he was also a founding member and first president of Spaniard’s Bay Minor Hockey, holding various executive and coaching positions with that association at the same time. Gosse also helped form the Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association, as well as the construction of the Bay Arena.
“Wes was very active in hockey,” said longtime friend and cocoach Ed Neil. “I coached with him for years. He was a modest man with a great sense of humour.
“Wes was mild mannered and didn’t take a lot of accolades.”
This week marks a significant year for the tournament. When the puck drops on Thursday night it mark the 25th running of the event.
“It is an event that the school looks forward too every year,” said Neil. “The longevity of the tournament is something. It is quite a feat for it to have reached 25 years.”
This year’s event features the host Astros, Prince of Wales Collegiate, Gonzaga, Queen Elizabeth, O’Donel High, Holy Spirit, Mount Pearl Senior High and Carbonear Collegiate. Getting a game In 1991, Keith Vokey, having just inherited coaching duties the year before from Neil and Gosse the previous year, came up with the idea of hosting a tournament.
The previous year Ascension had travelled to Grand Falls for the St. Mike’s tournament and that sparked the idea for a home tournament. At the time, he viewed it as a way for his talentladen team to get games against some top-notch competition.
“It was something I really wanted to do,” said Vokey. “We were left without anybody to play. It gave us a reason to practice.”
The school attempted to get into the metro league in St. John’s but there was no appetite for that amongst most teams. Vokey even offered to pay the bus fare for vis- iting teams because he knew they would “fill the rink” whenever they played.
“High school hockey was big,” he said.
Thus, a tournament was born. All it needed was a name
“I thought about Wes when I organized the tournament,” said Vokey. “I met with Wes and he thought it was a good idea. The first name that came up was Wes Gosse.” The first one The first Wesley Gosse Invitational was a six-team tournament featuring some of the top talent in the province. Mount Pearl Senior High, Booth Memorial (St. John’s), Queen Elizabeth (Foxtrap), St. Mike’s (Grand Falls) and Grand Falls Academy all iced teams for the inaugural event.
“It went very well,” said Vokey. “It was a success.”
The Astros made it to the final of the tournament and scored a 64 victory over Queen Elizabeth. Randy Reardon was named the most valuable player and scored the game winner. A staggering 1,200 fans packed themselves into Bay Arena, no doubt breaking some fire codes along the way.
“It was a big tournament for us back then,” said John Drover. He played for the Astros and contributed eight goals and six assists over the tourney’s first three games. “We knew who we were playing for and we had a strong team. We were very excited to be able to participate.”
Neil called the tournament a “fitting tribute” to Wesley Gosse.
“This tournament is a tribute to the efforts and the type of person that he was,” said Neil.
For his part in the creation of the tournament and looking back on it 25 years later, Vokey believes the survival of the tournament falls on the coaches who came after him to carry the torch. Coaches like Dixon, Fred Simms and others who have continued to organize the event.
“It is something that has caught on and hopefully it will continue,” he said.
The Ascension Collegiate Astros and the O’Donel High Patriots met in the final of the 24th Wesley Gosse Memorial Tournament. They’ll aim to do it again when the 25th edition gets underway this weekend.