Celebrations are in order for West Vancouver’s Thunder hockey team, who won gold in the U13 Tier 3 Championships in their home arena last week.
The tournament final, held Thursday at the West Vancouver Arena, saw the local group battle it out against South Okanagan, with the Thunder claiming gold with a 5-3 win.
Tom Oberti, president of the West Vancouver Minor Hockey Association, said it was “a bit of a fairytale” the way the whole thing came together, with West Van being able to host the provincial championships and the team taking home the crown.
“It’s not typical that the host team wins the championships, but we happen to have a really strong team,” he said.
“This is a pretty big deal for us, because we’re a small minor hockey association, and I think it’s been about a decade since the last time we won a provincial championship.”
The game was tied 3-3 heading into the third period, with West Van getting the winning goal with a little more than 11 minutes left in the period. West Van added an empty-net goal with 59 seconds left to seal the victory.
Rather than the result of a select few star players, Oberti said the win had been down to the whole team working together exceptionally well.
Tom Wolff von Gudenberg, whose son plays on the team, said the win was especially notable given the hurdles the team has faced in recent years.
“The last couple of years have really been challenging for all athletes – particularly young children – with COVID-19 restricting access to facilities and competition,” he said, touching on the “mental and emotional difficulties” that all young people had to endure.
“I just want to highlight the admiration I have for the commitment, hard work and unity displayed by the players and parent group this year.”
Wolff von Gudenburg said he had also been moved by the time and effort put in by the association – “parents, friends, family and community volunteers and sponsors” who worked together to host the provincial games.
The tournament kicked off March 19, with an opening ceremony that saw West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager welcome the teams, their families and fans to the five-day event.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.