For John Swan Silver Stick is part of Christmas.
John, his brother Bill and their mother, Nancy Coleman, have been part of the Christmas-time Alvinston Atom Regional Silver Stick since it began 24 years ago.
Swan says Alvinston minor hockey teams had always played in the prestigious Silver Stick tournaments but became a host site at the bidding of ‘Mr. Hockey’ long-time CHOK Radio Sports Reporter Roy Caley. “Forest was given the finals and you can’t host a regional and a final…so Roy Caley came and asked if we wanted to host a regional.”
It took several organizing meetings but the Alvinston Atom tournament eventually came to fruition. Coleman was the first secretary of the event. She became involved because her boys had played in Silver Stick before.
Coleman says the logicstics of organizing the event which attracted 32 teams in the first year, was a bit difficult at first. “It was very difficult organizing the first tournament,” she says adding “the most difficult thing was making up the schedule…we didn’t have computers to go to at the time.”
Swan, still a young man without children of his own, decided to give his mom and the group a hand. “I just wanted to help with minor hockey and Silver Stick.”
Over the years, Swan says there have been a lot of memorable moments, including the time a young Logan Couture, now of the San Jose Sharks, forgot to bring his skates from his home in Guelph.
“He grabbed some skates at the arena but they weren’t good enough, so his dad went into Strathroy to get him a new pair,” says Swan. And while it may seem odd to forget to bring hockey equipment to a hockey tournament, Swan says it happens more often than you might think. Organizers in Alvinston keep a full set of equipment in the arena “just incase someone forgets a set of elbow pads.”
The number of teams on the ice has decreased since Couture’s days. Twenty-four teams are registered for this year’s event. Swan says some of the reason for reduced numbers is the declining birth rate and amalgamation of hockey associations. But he says hockey has changed, too.
“When we started, it seem liked everyone wanted to participate, now if they don’t have a very good team they don’t want to compete.”
Alvinston always has a team on the ice, but Swan says home ice has not been that much of an advantage. “I don’t believe we’ve ever won regionals,” he says. He thinks the teams chances are “pretty good this year.
Swan may not take a lot of time to consider or even watch the local team on the ice. The tournament keeps him busy behind the scenes months before it even begins.
And he doesn’t mind because for Swan and his family “Silver Stick is part of Christmas.”