Hockey players — aside from Wayne Gretzky — generally don’t cry.
But as the seconds ticked off to setting a world record for the longest indoor ball hockey game, there was no holding back the water works on most of the remaining 28 players.
They had plenty of reason to be emotional. The two teams were dead tired after battling each other for more than two straight days. There was also the fact that they completed a goal they fell short of last year.
But at the forefront of their minds was a fallen friend, Gage Wilson, 16, who had died in a car accident less than one month ago.
The record attempt by Youth Sticking Together was dedicated in his memory, and each jersey had #ForGage silk-screened across the bottom for a constant reminder and motivation of what they were playing for.
His father Bill Wilson was on hand for the end of the game, and did his best to hold it together.
“It’s a real honour. He attempted this last year and they didn’t make ‘er, so it was good for the boys to come out and do it for Gage this time,” said Bill Wilson. “He loved to play with his buddies and the camaraderie of it all.”
Gage was looking forward to taking part again this year.
Brighton Bartlett, 17, captained the winning side to a 931-898 victory. He was best friends with Wilson, tough to separate on or off the ice, Bartlett even played on Wilson’s left wing in minor hockey and at the Woodlands Ice Hockey Academy.
The game meant far more than just a win or setting a record for him.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game for the whole year, but then when we dedicated this game to Gage, it’s just drove me that much more, pushed me that much more,” he said. “When we seen that record, it really just hit me.”
There were constant reminders of Wilson around the rink, in the dressing rooms and on the bench, including his stick taped to the glass of the home team bench.
As a final salute to their late friend, they grabbed the stick as the final seconds came off the clock and used it to score on one last breakaway.
The game broke the record of 50 hours set in Lethbridge, Alta., in 2008. Last year they attempted to break the outdoor record of 105 hours and 17 minutes, and made it just 54 hours before they were forced to quit due to injuries.
This year they knew what they were getting into a bit better.
They had medical personnel on site to help them through any bumps and bruises, and only lost two of their 30 players to injury. They also had a number of volunteers doing everything from running to get them water to grabbing them a power bar or some food on the bench so they could make it through the end of a shift.
Even getting sleep on an air mattress in between shifts became difficult.
“I’ve slept four hours,” said Dakota Bartlett, 20. “It was too hard to sleep. You’ve got adrenaline pumping through you, and by the time you get in there, and you wind down, you maybe get an hour of sleep.”
One big thing that kept them going was the crowd, especially on Sunday and as the record drew near.
They celebrated at 50 hours when they broke the record, players on both teams embracing, and somehow managed to keep going for the final 30 minutes.
“You wanted to stop and just enjoy it, but we wanted to do that for Gage, to use his stick to score the final goal of the game,” Brighton Bartlett.
The original goal of the game for Youth Sticking Together was to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Vancouver Island. There was no final count on how much had been raised at press time, though hopes were to bring in at least $4,000.
“It’s exciting, it’s emotional, the word proud does not even begin to describe how I feel about these guys, they’ve showed determination and dedication,” said YST president Tali Campbell. “A million dollar hockey player couldn’t do this, but these guys did this.”
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