NEWTON — It wasn’t quite Canada vs. Russia circa 1972. It wasn’t the 1994 Canucks vs. Rangers Cup final. But it was, for a number of reasons, a great game of hockey for a Sunday morning in the middle of Surrey.
The scene: The lacrosse box at Unwin Park in Newton. The stakes? A berth in the final and a chance to raise the big, glossy trophy that sits on a table just a few feet away. The Wolverines and the Thrashers, two squads partially stocked with players who normally toil in this region’s most hardcore example of the sport, the Premier Ball Hockey League.
One other thing: The entire two-day tournament was, in fact, a fundraiser, and for a heckuva good cause, too.
PICTURED: The Thrashers and the Wolverines battle in a semifinal game.
Seems that once upon a time, and not too long ago, there was a fellow by the name of Taranveer Dhillon. His family and best friends knew him simply as Tka (pronounced Tee-ka).
Tka was an athlete. He participated in a lot of sports, though his true love was hockey, where he won more than his fair share of trophies and awards.
As Tka grew from boy to man, his love of all things athletic continued, and his love for his fellow man only intensified.
“Tka brought people together,” his sister Manpreet, the organizer of last weekend’s tournament, remembered. “He always had fun. He wore costumes all the time, he really lived life to the fullest. One of the things he did is randomly go out and play hockey with neighbourhood kids, to get them engaged, to keep them on the right path. It’s this sort of thing that everyone remembers him for.”
But on July 28, 2013, in the middle of summer, suddenly and unexpectedly, the man they called Tka passed away.
“He just didn’t wake up in the morning,” Manpreet explained.
PICTURED: Manpreet Dhillon in the lacrosse box at Unwin Park.
We all have circles of influence, and it seems Tka’s was more substantial than most. His death impacted his family, of course, but it hit the immediate community, too. Soon, Manpreet would realize how deeply he touched so many. “All the guys were like, ‘He used to be my confidant. He used to be the one I talked to. Who am I going to talk to now? Who will help me with my life?’”
So she went to work. With the help of her family and friends, she formed something she called Tka’s Eternal Life Society. The primary focus would be a fundraising ball hockey tournament.
Clearly, Tka has a pretty great sister.
Last weekend (Aug. 13-14) marked the third edition of what has become an annual co-ed tourney. Registration was down a bit this year, probably because the Canadian Ball Hockey Association’s national championships were held the same weekend in Richmond.
But that didn’t dull the enthusiasm of those who played at Unwin Park. It was spirited ball hockey this past weekend, and a spirited support system, too, with a bouncy castle for the kids, tasty samosas for the participants, a trophy and medals for the winners, scoreboards and meticulous scorekeeping.
Harvy Takhar was there in full goalie gear, just like he does in the premier league. Takhar, 23, first caught ball hockey fever at age 13. He’s a fresh graduate from the UBC engineering department, and this week starts his first real engineering job.
Like many in the tournament, Takhar didn’t know Tka personally, but he’s aware of his impact, and he’s sincere when he says he loves playing for such a great cause.
Teammate Harbinder Deol echoed Takhar’s thoughts, and it’s the primary reason so many of the premier-league Thrashers also play for the Thrashers of the Tka tourney.
“It’s my second year participating,” said Deol, an accountant/realtor. “I’ve known Manpreet for a long time, and we’re out here supporting it. That’s my role here.”
PICTURED: Harvy Takhar makes saves on his brother Aman Takhar.
On the sidelines, watching over things like a good mom does, was Balwinder Dhillon.
“It was so sudden, he was so healthy,” she said of Tka’s passing. “But one morning, he couldn’t get up.”
She paused, wiped away a tear and stoically apologized for getting emotional.
“But when I saw him the last time, he was smiling. He gave me the hope to live. He always smiled.
“And this tournament, I feel like I’m doing something for my son. He was always teaching small kids how to play. He was a very good guy.”
Manpreet talked about the numbers – how each participating player chucked in $40 and how, with player entry fees, a silent auction held the night before at Sammy J’s in Morgan Crossing raised approximately $10,000, with support of sponsors including Origin Health, iFreedom Financial Solutions and Royal LePage.
But now, she said, Tka’s Eternal Life Society has shifted its focus. Whereas they’ve traditionally donated to KidSport Canada, in 2016 they’re using the funds to support male empowerment through sports and workshops.
“The tournament is about having fun, about bringing the community together, and to start thinking about conversations that guys don’t have on a regular basis,” she related. “Since we shifted the mandate, we’ve had so many amazing conversations about men’s empowerment – how men are wanting to express their emotions more, and about having a brotherhood they don’t really have now.”
In the end, the Thrashers won the tourney trophy with a 6-1 win over the Tikanators.
To find out more about the society, to donate or to get a head-start on entering next year’s tourney, go to Tkaseternallife.org.
PICTURED: Harvy Takhar in net.