The participants may be small – mostly nine or 10 years old – but when it comes to organizing the Munn Cup, the name of the game is go big or go home.
As the atom hockey tournament, which originally was held Easter weekend before changing to mid-February after more than 40 years, turns 50 this year, the usual favourites are back, with a few new twists to keep the format fresh.
In addition to the hockey games and the opening ceremonies Feb. 15 at noon, this year’s Munn Cup also includes the traditional Carroll Aeros fun night for players from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 18 and the pancake breakfast to kick things off on Saturday.
But thanks to all the people who’ve participated over the years, organizers are also able to put on a Munn Cup alumni game in the C.A. Nesbitt Arena from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday.
“We haven’t had the alumni game for quite some time,” said tournament organizer Devin Richcoon, who never played in the Munn Cup, despite having lived in Thompson for the past 35 years. “That’s a neat little thing that we haven’t done for awhile.”
This year’s tournament will also mark the end of an era, as Bruce Krentz will reprise his role as Keeper of the Cup, white gloves tuxedo and all, for the last time before passing it on to the next officeholder.
Krentz, who took over as the keeper from Bruce Cameron seven years ago, says the gloves he wears are the originals handed down to him by Cameron, who told him that the gloves are the key to the magic. Over his time as the keeper, Krentz has had many memorable moments, including presenting the trophy to his nephew Brady (now a member of the Norman Northstars) when the team coached by Bruce’s brother Mike won the championship a few years ago. A tournament alumnus himself, Krentz remembers the Munn Cup as a huge deal back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the old C.A. Nesbitt filled to its 1,000-plus capacity for the tournament final.
“To be able to support this proud tradition and to add some polish or uniqueness to the event makes the Keeper of the Cup role extra special,” Krentz says. “Because the Munn Cup has been in my life for so long in so many ways it feels good to stay involved and to add to the event, trying to make it just a little extra special for kids in it now.”
Richcoon has been involved with the Munn Cup tournament for the past six years now while his kids have been playing hockey. His oldest child played in two Munn Cups, his middle child in four and his youngest will be competing for the second and last time this weekend.
“The memories they make, the friends they meet, it’s such a great place to be on the weekend,” he said, adding that his kids liked to relive the games afterwards. “My kids always wanted to watch them on TV after the Munn Cup was over.”
Though the tournament isn’t as large as it once was, there will be 17 teams competing, including three from Thompson, one from Swan River and a team called the Northeast Wolfpack from the Tisdale, Sask. area.
“They’re a strong team and our Thompson team is very strong as well so it should be an entertaining weekend,” Richcoon says. “It’s going to be a fun year.”