As one hockey league begins the long journey to the Stanley Cup, another has already handed one out.
The East York Hockey Association (EYHA) closed its hockey season with the Little Stanley Cup game April 7 at East York Memorial Arena.
The Peewee final between Chicago and Boston was a two-game affair. After each team had won one game, the outcome had to be decided by a sudden-death overtime, with Chicago scoring the decisive goal.
Team Chicago celebrated by skating a few laps around the rink, the Little Stanley Cup in hand. The EYHA has played for the cup since the 1954-1955 season. Peewee division games are played by 11 to 12 year olds.
“From the start, we’ve stressed with these guys to play as a team, through adversity and to our fullest abilities,” said Chicago head coach Shane Wilson. “Our opponent was incredibly tough; we didn’t take it for granted that we were going to win.”
When asked how he planned to celebrate, he said the team will just have “fun” together — possibly with a game of road hockey, he added, laughing.
For 12-year-old Emile Fontaine, this was his second Little Stanley Cup win. He has been playing hockey for four years and said the win feels “great.” His father, Chris Fontaine, is Team Chicago’s assistant coach.
The game drew a large crowd of parents, fans and politicians.
“It’s exciting for the parents, kids and observers,” said Councillor Janet Davis, who has been attending the games for 15 years. “It’s a lot of fun and a testament to the volunteers who give so much to this club, one of the most successful in the city.”
The association gives hundreds of young people an opportunity to learn the skills and have a competitive experience, she added.
EYHA is an entirely volunteer-based organization. It has more than 800 registered players and 200 volunteers, according to the association’s president, Connie Mitchell.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs player Lou Franceschetti was also present, signing autographs and answering questions.
The Little Stanley Cup is a replica of the NHL trophy. Standing at three feet tall, it is known to be the only authorized replica to date. The East York Hockey Association was allowed the honour of creating the replica in 1954 by Clarence Campbell, who was then president of the NHL.
The EYHA will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next season.