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The largest sports tournament ever in Leaside

Premier Kathleen Wynne drops the first puck for the March Madness hockey tournament.

Premier Kathleen Wynne drops the first puck for the March Madness hockey tournament.

On the weekend of March 11-13 Leaside Arena hosted what was likely the largest sports tournament ever held in Leaside.

The Toronto Leaside Wildcats girls’ hockey league’s 37th annual March Madness tournament was bigger than ever with 146 teams participating. That means about 400 coaches and trainers and over 2,400 female hockey players ranging from the seven- and eight-year-old Novices to the over 21 Senior A women.

Teams came from as far afield as Cornwall and Ottawa in the east, Strathroy in the southwest and Sault Ste. Marie in the north.

TLGHA president Jennifer Smith said the tournament included 331 games over the three days in 24 separate divisions. While Leaside Arena was the hub, with both rinks dedicated to the tournament, the league had to rent ice at 16 other Toronto arenas to find the nearly 400 hours of ice time needed.

“An event like this only happens with the generous support from the Leaside business community and the hard work of over 100 volunteers,” said Smith.

While the weekend went off without a hitch, Smith says there was a sad note because two days before the tournament opened she and her colleagues learned of the death of Ian Shaw, who had been TLGHA’s first president after it incorporated, from 1993-2000, and who was at the time of his death the house league referee-in-chief.