T.O.'s ethnic mosaic represented in tourney

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

With 16 hockey teams from Toronto's ethnic mosaic launching a historic hockey tournament today, you would think it's a golden opportunity for various anthem singers around town.

But only one tune will be heard through three days at the Crown Royal Multicultural Tournament -- O Canada.

"The big message here is that this is not an international event, it's Canadians versus Canadians," tournament founder Stan Papulkas said. "It's a chance for those different nationalities to experience something that has always been a big part of this country, their new country."

The men's tournament features teams of Italian, Irish, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Chinese and Finnish heritage, as well as the Nubian Kings, culled from the African and Caribbean community, and the Thunderbirds, a First Nations amalgam.

Ex-Maple Leaf Peter Zezel is coaching the Serbian White Eagles.

The event takes place at Ted Reeve Arena and Scarborough Gardens with the winners getting $5,000 and the Canadian Cup, already earmarked for the Hockey Hall Of Fame. The tourney is a trial run for a proposed GTA-wide league next autumn.

"Hopefully, we attract some good players to the league and create some good neighbourhood role models," Papulkas said.

Papulkas, a television executive, envisioned such a tournament 20 years ago, when he was isolation director for the old Canadian-Italian League games on Channel 47. His renewed incentive came from watching Greeks and Portuguese celebrate together on the Danforth when Greece won soccer's Euro 2004

"Even though they lost, the Portuguese came by the busloads and some Greeks went to the West End," Papulkas said. "We've seen the TV clips and it's not a fable. Based on how well the exhibition games have gone, we think the same spirit can happen at the rink. It's getting a lot of attention in each community and we're hoping that 20,000 people come out over the three days."

The 38 games are all non-contact and organizers do not anticipate the need to beef up existing arena security for matches with teams who have long-standing political or territorial grudges.


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