The 36th annual March Madness hockey tournament has ended with nearly 60 teams in 19 playing categories taking home a medal. These players got personal gold, silver or bronze medals depending on their team’s performance. There were 140 teams entered with more than 2,000 kids on skates. Medals or no medals however, every player won the extraordinary growing experience offered by this marathon girls hockey event. There were teams from all over, including from the U.S. The farthest travelling club hiked to Toronto from near San Francisco. They got an award for that. The medal winners are listed here with greater detail on each win, loss or draw available at this link on the same site.
Former Leaf winger Mark Osborne was receiving young fans in the William Lea room of the Leaside Arena Saturday afternoon. It was a nice added treat for the hundred of kids who were in and out of the arena today during the Toronto Leaside Wildcats March Madness. The competition ends Sunday about 5 p.m.
When you have 2,200 girls on 140 teams playing hard-fought competitive hockey in a dozen Toronto arenas, it can get a bit hectic. You need a woman at the top who can do any job on a moment’s notice. So Saturday saw Toronto Leaside Wildcats president Jennifer Smith presiding over March Madness, the world largest girls hockey competition, by jumping in as scorekeeper at a bronze game and then hand out the medals at Leaside arena’s Bert F. Grant pad. “We give out medals for all categories of play. It’s pretty busy,” Smith says with a grin. It is her first year as director of the venerable March Madness competition, although she has been Wildcats president for four years. Her daughter plays and also referees in the weekend-long scene that has turned the Leaside Memorial Gardens Arena into a madhouse all its own. “Never have so many girls lugged so many enormous bags and enjoyed it so much,” one wag observed. Toronto Leaside Wildcats Association is a sanctioned hockey league under the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. The Wildcats have been screaming down the ice for more than 40 years in Toronto. It germinated in Leaside with the first game ever being played at Leaside arena. March Madness marks its 36th year this weekend. From those earliest days it was clear there was real appeal for girls in this physically demanding and highly-social sport. Mothers and fathers took note. Toronto Leaside began to multiply teams, extending to other arenas and signing up kids from all over. There are players from East York, Beaches, North Toronto,. Lawrence Park, Forest Hill and many other neighborhoods. In total there are 1,400 girls from toddler-age to 17. March Madness is a signature event but not everyone plays competitively. The league has adult female teams that play for recreation only. Other kids play in the less competitive house league. About 375 play competitively and they are all on the ice at March Madness. The rules are similar to professional hockey although there is no body checking. If, for example, there is a tie in a playoff at March Madness the teams go to a “4 on 4” overtime. The best shooters battle it out for five minutes. Jennifer Smith told of such a tilt Saturday in which the Whitby Atom As and their Aurora counterparts had to settle it with a shootout. Three Annie Oakleys with a hockey stick from each side faced off. Both sides scored, but one scored twice. Thus the game ended Aurora 2, Whitby 1. Tough game to lose.
Hundreds of young women are playing their hearts out for their team this weekend at the Leaside Wildcats March Madness Tournament. Among them is Cara Smith, 9, sporting her team emblem and her number (also 9) on her face. Cara is with the Oakville Hornets and will no doubt help to rekindle the old rivalry between the Hornets and Leaside Wildcats. The tourney runs tomorrow and Sunday with an expected appearance Saturday by Natalie Spooner, former member of the Canadian Women’s National Team.