I wish to share my appreciation of the 29th Annual C.R.E.E. Senior Hockey and Broomball Tournament held in Val d’Or December 10-13 and, at the same time, add some of my criticisms, hoping they will be received in a constructive way.

First, I want to say that my husband and I noticed a difference in the way some people from Val d’Or treated us during our stay this year. I do not want to put everyone in the same basket as we do have very good friends in Val d’Or. I am referring to the places like restaurants, stores, shopping mall, etc. We felt we were given the attention we deserve to get for landing in Val d’Or every year and enhancing their economy.

An employee in one store even told me what I have been waiting to hear for the past 29 years: “If it was not for the Crees coming to Val d’Or at this tournament, we would probably have to close our doors.” YEAH! One other employee rolled out the red carpet to my husband as she kept asking him if “everything is okay, sir?” Even the IGA grocery store manager came to pack our groceries with some obvious “extra attention” (again, attention that we deserve!).

My good friend Bertie Wapachee told me that meetings had taken place with the Chamber of Commerce in Val d’Or. That may have made a difference!

I remember one year when we made reservations to stay in a bed and breakfast for the weekend. The owner had just brought her pamphlets to a friend who owns a travel agency. Once the owner of the B&B discovered that the travel agency was publicizing her business to the Crees of James Bay, she went back to the agency to remove her pamphlets! My friend from the travel agency told me to call the Mayor of Val d’Or. I did. Mayor Trahan asked me to write a letter to him relating to the discriminating incident, which, of course, I did.

Whoa! It’s been 29 years already! We had fun all weekend going down memory lane talking about the good old days of tournaments years ago. Some stories people shared deserve repeating, like that one in which one ‘Old Timer’ player made sure to be the last one to come out of the dressing room after every game, hoping one of the player would forget his beer ticket! Or that guy who quit drinking four years ago and got hit by the 29th Anniversary of the tournament! His reaction: “My goodness! That means I must have been drunk for 25 years!”

Times sure have changed. One travel agency employee, who hangs around with friends in the bars of Val d’Or, told us that they notice that our players are taking their sports more seriously and don’t hang in bars like before. Let’s put it this way: bars are not as fully occupied as they hoped they would be. Our sports and their athletes are in better “condition!”

Some things haven’t improved, however. The idea of having the NHL Old Timers skating around our players during the opening ceremonies was a good idea, but to make us go back outside and PAY $10 AGAIN to get in to see the show was a bit obnoxious! My $10 already paid that day was supposed to include the opening ceremonies!

I’d also suggest that the tournament should contract the services of our first responders from Chisasibi, who are quite a bit more efficient than those in place at the arena in Val d’Or. When my son was injured during the semi-finals, it took a crazy long time for that first responder to show up on the ice. I was told that, “He was busy watching the game on the other ice.” As well, I was told that, the day before during a broomball game, one player was crosschecked from behind (a very dangerous move) and she was on the ice for a very long time without anyone providing immediate care. The opposing team (who related the story to me) were themselves pretty worried about that girl lying on the ice. One should ensure that does not happen again!

The idea of inviting other hockey teams to join the Class A category was a pretty good one as it did enhance the calibre of hockey for the benefit of both players and fans. However, if you are going to accommodate the team from Amos (who could not play on Friday because they had to work), then all teams should be treated equally. This resulted in scheduling Class A games on Sunday afternoon, which was kind of awkward. On top of that, this meant only two games before the playoffs. Questionable!

Now, women’s broomball! On behalf of all players and their fans, I must admit I was royally offended and found it totally disgraceful that:

•    Not to have at least the final game of broomball played on Ice I

•    To use part of the registration fees from broomball to increase the winnings of Class A hockey

•    To have the janitor delivering the awards to the champions at final games;

•    There were no trophies for broomball champions

•    There was no microphone to announce the winners and individual awards!

I think all broomball teams deserve an apology.

Again, I hope all organizers, who, I know, put in much time and effort to prepare this event, receive this criticism constructively.
Dolores Audet-Wash