Published in the North Island Eagle, April 5, 2019
by Trish Weatherall Photo by Carolyn Meech
They didn’t win a single game but it was a winning weekend for father and son teammates playing together for the first time in the 40th Oscar Hickes Hockey Tournament last weekend. Darren and Alec Schmidt also represented the oldest (a few months away from 50) and youngest (just turned 19) team members on the four teams of Division A.
Both are former Port Alice residents who traveled to be a part of this historic event and played together for the Rusty Trombones team.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a tournament without winning a game,” said the younger Schmidt, now living in Prince George to attend the Culinary Arts program at New Caledonia College. Growing up in Port Alice, the Oscar Hickes tournament was the highlight of the year, and from age 10 to 15 he put in his time working at the concession, playing the music and running the clock. Now, finally of age to participate, he didn’t think he would have the opportunity to play in the tournament.
The catalyst for this important father-son experience was Russell Murray, former Port Alice resident now living in Vancouver, family friend of the Schmidts, and Co-Chair of the Oscar Hickes tournament.
“I’ve been asking Darren for years to play again, and with Alec turning 19 it was a great opportunity to have them both play,” he said. “It will be great father/son memory. My dad coached our team the first couple years and they are memories I’ll always cherish.”
“I was telling anyone within earshot ‘I’m here playing with my son!’,” said Darren. Now living on Denman Island, he hadn’t considered playing in the tournament either, until Murray brought up the idea of playing with his son. “We were on a line together the whole weekend and every time I looked over at Alec on the bench I thought, ‘Oh man, this is one in a million!’ I must have thanked Russell a dozen times for thinking of us.”
Murray has a special connection with the Schmidts. “I grew up golfing with Darren and was his caddy when he won the Port Alice’s Mens Open one year,” he said. “He was a mentor for me growing up in Port Alice and a positive role model. And so, I’ve known Alec his entire life and seen him grow into a young man. He’s moved away but he still has those small-town roots.”
“Growing up in Port Alice, the Oscar Hickes tournament was one of the most fun weekends,” said Murray. “Hanging out at the arena, running the clock, playing music, collecting sticks and watching all of our dads play and dream of the day we could play. It’s a right of passage to play. Sitting next to Alec, I could see his excitement and he played very well.”
Neither Schmidt had been on the ice this season prior to the tournament. “I can tell I’m almost 50,” said Darren, “My whole body hurts. But it was worth it and I don’t think we could’ve had a better time. The guys on the team made us feel so welcome and really encouraged Alec as the rookie.”
In the team’s second game, Darren managed one of three goals against the Warriors, and had a memorable moment in the fourth game against the Moose Knuckles when he dove to stop the puck in the final minutes before the two overtimes.
“The whole arena was cheering,” said Alec.
They squeezed in more memories with a golf game, chatting to old friends, and Alec had a cougar siting on the Mill Road one night.
“We talked all the way up island and all the way back, first about how the tournament’s going to be and then about how it was,” laughed Darren.
All three former residents lamented Port Alice’s Doug Bondue arena not opening full-time this year.
“This might be the last time I ever play in the Port Alice arena,” said Alec. “It’s where I learned to play hockey. I was there almost every day for Stick Time, free skate and hockey practice.”
Murray says, “I hope the Village saw what a positive impact this tournament had on the town and the residents and continue to keep the facilities in a state that next year we can open it up for a longer period and host more events. Their support this year has been outstanding.”
The Schmidts hope to play together in future years and have a few more fathers and sons join in – maybe a whole team of them!