A quiet yet proud Sault hockey tradition (video)Friday, December 28, 2012 by: Donna Hopper
Anyone who knows Sault Ste. Marie knows we're a proud hockey town.
NHL legends Phil and Tony Esposito are from here.
Adam Foote, Joe Thornton, and Ron Francis all played here.
Heck, even the Great One, Wayne frikken Gretzky played for the Soo Greyhounds.
But some of our proudest hockey traditions are those few people know about.
And in 1988, Al Wood, Rusty Sim, John Doherty, and Rob Harten had no clue they would create a legacy when they ventured out to the Trunk Road A&P parking lot to play hockey at midnight on Christmas Eve.
What started out as four bored guys trying to kill time as their families slumbered awaiting Santa's arrival quickly morphed into the A&PHL.
Many things have changed over the last 25 years - A&P became Metro, founding members dropped out as numerous others joined the ranks, nets were purchased, basic rules were set in place, and a trophy was introduced - but the A&PHL has taken place in that same spot, on that same night, at that same time for 25 years straight.
2012 marked the quarter-century anniversary as light snow fell on the slush at the Trunk Road Metro store, and everyone wondered: "Who will show up to celebrate the occasion?"
But more importantly, participants wondered if the "old timers" of the Unity Squad could hold on to their reigning championship.
You see, there are only two teams in the A&PHL - the Unity Squad and the Community Squad.
Unity is comprised of founding members and long-time participants.
Community is basically everyone else.
These designations, however, have started to blur a bit.
"There was never supposed to be a definitive Community Squad roster," A&PHL Commissioner and founding member Al Wood said as the players gathered this past Christmas Eve.
Some members of the Community Squad - current team captain Frank Deresti, for example - have taken part in the event for a significant number of years, in some cases 14 years or more.
Four players remained in serious question when deciding this year's team rosters, one of them being founding member Rusty Sim's son, Brent Sim.
It was decided after a short sidebar by Wood and Sim that sticks would be tossed to decide the fate of those four in question.
As luck would have it, father played against son, and son nabbed the trophy from father.
Community Squad won the 25th annual A&PHL in two close games, 10-7 and 10-9.
To read a more comprehensive history of the A&PHL, please click here for SooToday.com's coverage of the 20th annual Christmas Eve showdown.