25 years and count­ing

The Compass - - ED­I­TO­RIAL - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

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.

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