Carol Derbyshire, centre, of Hospice and Tim and Janet Beaulieu, right, co-chairs of Hockey for Hospice are surrounded by Tecumseh Orange Crush and Belle River Orange Flyers hockey players after they received trophies at Libro Complex Thursday Dec. 29, 2016. NICK BRANCACCIO / WINDSOR STAR

The annual Hockey for Hospice Tournament has smashed its own fundraising record by netting more than $300,000 in three days.

Pledges for the 21st annual event, one of the biggest charity hockey tournaments in Canada, quickly surged past last year’s take of $275,720.

“Hospice has touched almost everybody in Windsor and Essex County,” said tournament co-chairman Paul Pietraszko. “Windsor and Essex County is an extremely giving community. I think those two things have enabled this tournament to grow. There is a huge heart in this community and they just want to help others. We see that year in and year out.”

This year’s three-day tournament started Dec. 27. Pietraszko said 132 teams played 277 games.

“Started out on one rink as a skate-a-thon, turned into a hockey tournament at one rink,” said Pietraszko. “Now we use nine ice pads in four arenas throughout the county.”

This year the tournament, presented by Freedom 55 Financial, took place at Tecumseh Arena, the Libro Centre in Amherstburg, Atlas Tube Centre in Lakeshore and the Vollmer Recreational Complex in LaSalle.

About 1,900 players in tyke, novice, atom, peewee and bantam divisions raised a grand total of $301,258 in the tournament.

“The kids who play in this tournament always go above and beyond,” said Fr. Matthew Durham, director of community engagement and advancement at the hospice. “The effort they put into collecting pledge money and how eager they are to learn about the hospice and where their pledges are going is just astounding.”

Pietraszko said the tournament, which raised more than $2.6 million over the last 20 years, has even exceeded the hopes of its organizers.

“About 10 years ago we were trying to get it to average $100,000 a year, and we’ve blown that away,” he said. “So it’s grown exceptionally.”

He said the hope is that the tournament will be even bigger and better next year, but he’s not committing himself to anything.

“We never set a goal,” said Pietraszko. “This year I let it slip that I was hoping for $300,000, and that got printed. I’m really glad we exceeded it. Next year I’ll know.

“The thing we’re running into is we’re running out of ice time and we’re running out of officials, so we might be getting close to our maximum. We will never put a cap on it unless we absolutely have to. So who knows next year what could happen?”

Article & Image Source: Windsor Star