Decade four for Willi Plett memorial 0
Moving forward into another decade of the Willi Plett Memorial Hockey Tournament, organizer Darrell Hilliard has many memories to look back on in 31 years of the popular family tournament.
In 1982, Willi Plett-easily Hilliard's favourite Calgary Flames player-was traded to Minnesota. To this day, Hilliard maintains the Plett trade to the North Stars to be a grievous mistake for the Flames organization.
"I remember going to work; I actually made a black armband out of paper," Hilliard said in an interview with the Promoter last summer. "People teased me about it. They would ask me and I just said Willi got traded."
It was just last year that the very much still alive Willi Plett learned of the tournament being played in his honour.
On August 25, Hilliard along with his friends and family members stepped out onto the ice at the Coleman Sportsplex for the 31st year of the tournament. When asked if he ever thought the Willi Plett tournament would last for so many years, he was quick to answer.
"People kept coming and people kept enjoying it," he said, noting there could be no way anyone could have guessed the longevity of the family hockey tournament. "I never thought it would be (nearing) 31."
Last year was a major anniversary for the tournament and with Plett hearing of the hockey game, the former hockey star mailed Hilliard signed cards along with his 25th anniversary Flames coat.
"This year, we're just going to tone it down a bit and get it back to some basics," Hilliard said ahead of the game. "We've got a couple of new faces so that'll inject some enthusiasm into the game and change it up a bit."
The Willi Plett Memorial Tournament is all about having fun playing Canada's game and Hilliard said it's almost more about the right attitude than winning the game.
"It's a good commitment and some guys, you never worry if they'll show," he recalled. "They will be there 100 per cent of the time. They're really big supporters."
Whereas one year Hilliard might be playing with a close friend, another year, he might be lacing up beside a relative he only gets to see at the Willi Plett tournament.
"Until I walk in the dressing room, I don't know who I am playing with," he said.
After the big game, the BBQ is hosted into the evening at Hilliard's home in Burmis. Awards-commemorating family members who have since passed on-are a huge part of the Willi Plett tournament.
"They would certainly approve of it," Hilliard said of his family members. "They were such a big part of the Willi the years they were involved with it and it's just a nice way to honour their memory."