By Daria Maystruk
Hockey sticks slashing the ground and shouts of encouragement marked the return of the Hintonburg Community Association ball hockey tournament on Oct. 14 at Parkdale Park.
This year’s event — the first since the start of the pandemic — was also a celebration of long-time volunteer Al Norris.
Norris, who passed away suddenly three years ago, used to organize the ball hockey tournaments, said Hintonburg Community Association board member Matt Whitehead.
Whitehead organized this year’s tournament and said it was their first time running it without Norris.
“On the day, this was Al’s show,” he said. “It’s too bad Al’s not here. We’re going to do something nice for him.”
Whitehead said the event was “a little bittersweet” without Norris to see it, but said Norris would have been thrilled to see community members getting together to play sports.
“I think you can tell by all the smiles, [by] everybody having such a good time and just everyone gathering around watching it that people are just really excited to see it again,” Whitehead said. “I think he would be particularly thrilled to see some of the young kids that we’ve got on the team.”
Whitehead added the association renamed the tournament trophy in Norris’s honour, now called the Al Norris Memorial Trophy.
The event was also an opportunity to present the Hintonburg Community Centre with a cheque for $2,000, which the community fundraised after Norris’s death.
“In lieu of flowers, his family said [to] make donations to the Community Association because he was a board member and loved it so much,” Whitehead said. “Al loved sports … and so today that money is being donated to the community centre to help kids play sports.”
The Hintonburg Community Centre is a multi-facility recreation centre that is supported by the non-profit Hintonburg Community Association.
Matthew Perkins, director of the Hintonburg Community Centre, said the centre is using the money to replenish sports program equipment, including the purchase of new ball hockey equipment and new basketballs to suit the needs of more ages and skill levels.
“The Hintonburg Community Association helps to support the community centre by donating money to help offset the costs of programs so we can offer programs at a much more affordable level, and we’re very, very thankful for this kind of engagement.”
Perkins said the event showcased the importance of this kind of community involvement.
“This is true grassroots community engagement and it shows how much the citizens in this area appreciate the Community Association, [and] how much the association can do for this neighbourhood,” he said.
Norris’s wife, Lynn Norris, said the tournament “was a really good way to honour him.”
She said Norris would have been humbled by the event and the reactions from community members.
“This tournament in particular was something that he loved … it was basically one of the highlights of his year,” she said. “He really believed in the power of making sports [and] arts accessible to everyone, not just people who can afford it. So all of this, he would have really loved it and loved that the money was used for so many great things.”
Another extended family member of Norris’s, Marzena Swiderski, attended the tournament and said the event meant she could “stop crying about his passing.”
“If there is something I miss about Al, it’s his smile and enthusiasm.”