The Opeongo Heritage Cup is just three days away!

Commissioner and founder of the tournament, David Shulist says he’s excited about this year’s tournament and says that it’s always an eventful weekend for Madawaska Valley.

As he takes us through the history of the hockey tournament, he explains that his vision was to promote heritage. He says a lot of people are not aware of their heritage as it gets lost from generation to generation. He then decided to put together a hockey tournament in 2006 which would include the four strong cultural communities of Madawaska Valley Township and Township of Bonnechere Valley. Those are the Irish, Germans, Algonquins and the Kashubs. Shulist adds that “hockey is a good vehicle to promote our culture”.

Shulist says the name Opeongo derived from the descendants of the first pioneers that came up Opeongo Line in the 1850s.

So who qualifies to play? Shulist says players have to fill out an eligibility form in order to play. A research team then investigates to make sure they have roots coming from one of the four heritage groups. Some of them are from the region, some of them come from across the country. Shulist says many of the players have played Junior hockey so the caliber is excellent. He adds that former NHLers and local hockey heroes Larry Trader and Rod Schutt have played in the tournament in the past.

“This event is a homecoming” Shulist says and states that people who have lived in the area and moved away choose to come back to reconnect with family and friends and, also see some hockey, on this special weekend.

Commissioner Shulist, also Councillor of Madawaska Valley Township, says that the tournament is lucky to have four great groups who are the workhorses behind the scenes. Those groups are the Wilno Heritage Society, Killaloe Heritage Society, Combermere Heritage Society and the Zurakowski Park Committee.

This year, they’ve even added a minor heritage hockey night which will take place on Thursday night.

“You can see how proud people are of their heritage” Shulist says and adds that “people wave flags, they think they’re at the Olympics”. Spectators are encouraged to wear the colours of their favourite team which are the Kashubian Griffins, the Irish Shamrocks, the German Black Eagles and the Algonquin Thunderbirds.

The tournament starts on Friday night at 7:00 at the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre in Barry’s Bay. Admission is free for kids under 12 and weekend passes are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Individual day tickets are also sold, Friday is $5 and Saturday and Sunday are $10 each.