Forty-six years and more family members than you can count. The Hochelaga Cup has been one Moose Jaw family’s tradition since before many hockey fans were born. It’s a dream that a young Greek family had when they immigrated to Canada in the 1950s; to assimilate and become part of Canadian culture. And, as the world knows, Canada and hockey go hand in hand.
It started with five cousins, young boys who braved the sub-zero temperatures of Moose Jaw on Christmas Day to hoist their own version of the Stanley Cup. The “Hochelaga Cup” was named after the street where their family home was located, and as the cousins grew up and the family got larger, more cousins and nephews started to play. While the family has moved on to other streets and other cities 46 years later, the Hochelaga Cup has become the one family tradition you don’t mess with at all. If you try, you can be sure the eldest female cousin, Sophia Yannitsos, will let you know. While she never played, the tradition of playing street hockey on family day, followed up by pizza at the family’s local restaurant is one of her most treasured.
While this family takes to the street instead of the ice, one cousin, Pete Iatrides, found his way on to the Greek Ice Hockey National Team. His passion for hockey led him to a silver medal in 2002 and back to Moose Jaw, where he now works as the sales and marketing manager for the Moose Jaw Warriors. It’s a special story of hard work and passion for a sport that can only be discovered while growing up in Canada’s heart. His influence and the influence of the older players has rubbed off on the younger generation, as more and more of the family lace up their skates and work towards spots on Junior A and Junior B teams. Who knows, maybe we’ll see an “Iatrides” or a “Lentzos” or a “Kourles” on the back of an NHL jersey someday.
When all is said and done, you won’t find a list of past winners anywhere. What you will find is a family that comes together and celebrates their heritage and journey in becoming Canadian. Together, over a long table after playing hockey in the cold for hours, a gathering of family is really what the Hochelaga Cup is all about. It’s an idea, a reminder of the hard work and drive their parents had when they immigrated to Canada from Greece in the 1950s. It’s a way to honour those who have been lost, and to celebrate those who will play in the future.