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Kelowna gets outside to play Canada's game

Justin Putz tries to outwit a defender during Hockey Night in Canada
Justin Putz tries to outwit a defender during Hockey Night in Canada's Play On! Kelowna street hockey tournament.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

Justin Putz and his team were down 2-1 during the halftime intermission of their second street hockey game on Saturday.

The temperature was hot and his troops were tired, but they still spitted out words of encouragement to try and turn the game's momentum.

The second half looked completely different than the first. The play opened up and goals started pouring in at both ends of the street.

Putz's team was down two goals before clawing back to tie the match with only three minutes left in the game.

In the end, their opponents scored a late one and posted a 7-6 victory to conclude an exciting match.

The result was one of hundreds of story lines that came out of the Hockey Night in Canada Play On! Kelowna street hockey tournament this past weekend.

Over 140 teams, spread out through 10 divisions, battled it out on the streets in front of Prospera Place.

For Putz, the tournament is an excuse to get a group of friends together for a weekend of sports.

"We've got guys from Saskatchewan, Alberta, Vancouver and Kelowna. We're all buddies, we just get back together and play some hockey for a weekend," said Putz.

Becky Hughes, event manager for Kelowna and Burnaby Play On! tournaments, said that numbers were up 30 per cent from last year in the 2012 tournament.

"Kelowna is a pretty manageable event for us—it's more of a fun event with a nice site and it's a lot smaller (than Burnaby)," said Hughes.

According to Hughes, there are a range of skill levels that take part in Play On!; however, those in the Elite division have a lot to play for.

"The winner advances to a national championship this September in Niagara Falls."

The other winners aren't left empty-handed, said Hughes. Younger kids have the opportunity to win trophies while the older competitors might get their hands on gift certificates or other prizes provided by sponsors.

Sean McCutcheon, the goalie for Everyday I'm Byfuglien, was the hero for his team in their first Saturday competition.

He stole the show in a shootout to give the team its first victory of the day.

Although his crew was competing in the intermediate league, he said that games can get fairly feisty.

"It gets intense because you want to win—I got run over twice today," said McCutcheon.

Hughes said that organizers are aware that tempers can rise in close games, so they've taken measures to ensure Play On! remains a fun event.

"We have security on hand watching the games—slashing, high-sticking (and fighting) are not allowed."

By the end of this summer, more than 1 million Canadians will have participated in a Play On! tournament in one of 68 different locations throughout the country.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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