In 1983 the hockey organization looking after Bantam AA hockey in Regina was known as Regina Boys Hockey Association. The director in charge decided to hold a Bantam AA tournament. The original tournament was a six-team tournament with a two-game guarantee. This format was used again in 1984. That was the year that a enthusiastic coach by the name of Jim Syrnyk was asked to take over and run the tournament. With the approval and support of the board of Directors of Regina Boys Jim recruited the other Bantam AA coaches as assistants and changed the name to The Coaches Tournament.
In 1986 the coaches changed to an eight-team tournament, with a three-game guarantee. Jim and the other coaches realized that there very few tournaments early in the season, so they decided to hold the tournament around the November 11th holiday. It soon became a very popular tournament. Many coaches wanted to play in this tournament so they could compare their team to other teams early in the season. Many coaches remarked they liked this tournament because it gave them the opportunity to have the players together for three or four days early in the season. There were many comments that the team chemistry developed at this tournament set the stage for a very good year.
Because of the high number of teams that had to be turned away in 1991 Jim and the other coaches increased the number of teams accepted to twelve. Over the last 35 years, the tournament has grown to 32 teams and involves a tournament committee of about 15 people. Last year's tournament was won by the North East Wolfpack, who will be back to defend their title this year.
In 1992 a tragic car accident took the life Rick Mearns, a young Regina boy playing with the Portland Winter Hawks. Rick's parents Larry and Irene Mearns donated a Memorial trophy to the Coaches Tournament. This trophy is awarded each year to the winner of the tournament and presented by a representative of the Mearns family.
ABOUT THE RICK MEARNS MEMORIAL TROPHY
The Rick Mearns Memorial Trophy was donated to the Coaches Tournament by his parents Larry and Irene Mearns, and sisters Rhonda and Bonnie, niece Kylie Rossler and nephew Brad Mearns. Kylie and Brad were the joy of their late Uncles life, as were Ricks brothers-in-law Marcel Rossler and Tim Brooks. Another niece, Misty Mearns and nephew Mason Rossler have since arrived and started to take part in awarding the champions with the Trophy. The donation of this Trophy originated because a young boy loved to play hockey, and played all but two years of hockey in the leagues of Regina.
At the age 5, Rick played organized hockey in the Park's League. The age group was actually 6-8 years, but Rick made the team at the age of 5. He played here for 2 years. At the age of 7, he advanced to the Queen City Hockey League, now known as Hockey Regina. This league was very competitive and taught Rick leadership, team play, and a great deal of commitment, all of which are necessary for future life endeavors.
Larry, his father, coached Rick for 3 years. One year at Park's level, and 2 years at City level, novice and atom. Rick's coaches and teammates were an asset to him, as he became a very good hockey player.
Rick received many letters from W. H. L. Scouts and University Teams in the USA while in his peewee years. In Rick's first year Bantam, his family moved to Prince Albert on a job promotion for Larry. Here, Rick, for the first time in his life was released from Tier 1. He went on to play for another team, and worked hard and exceptionally well. He was called up as an AP to play for the Prince Albert Mintos. He played hard and the coaching staff of the PA Mintos gave Rick every opportunity to play on their team. At the end of the year, at a Team windup, Rick got up in front of the coaches, parents and teammates to thank the coaching staff for the chance to play on their team. We, as parents, were so very surprised and proud of our fourteen-year-old son. It was while living in Prince Albert that Rick received a letter from the Portland Winter Hawks WHL Team. He was placed on their fifty player protected list. The next year, Rick's second year Bantam, the family transferred back to Regina. Rick played Tier 1 Bantam and this was to be his last year of hockey in Regina. The next year he went to play in the WHL for the Portland Winter Hawks. At the age of 16, he left home and moved 2500 miles away, to a new country. He was one step closer to his dream in life, playing in the NHL. His first year as a rookie, far from home, was a new experience and not always an easy one. Rob Vanstone of the Leader Post had interviewed Rick, and he told Mr. Vanstone how different it was and how he missed home, especially his niece and nephew. Travelling 13 hours to play one game of hockey or crossing a ferry to Victoria, was all a new experience. After travelling on the bus all these hours, you may only get one shift a period. Rick realized that what he learned in the young years of playing Queen City Hockey about discipline, commitment and determination would now pay off, if you really love the game.
While playing in the WHL for the Portland Winter Hawks, Rick was chosen to play for Team Western. This was under 17 International Hockey Tournament held in Sudbury, Ontario and surrounding area. Ten young men selected from Saskatchewan and ten from Manitoba made up Team Western, which was coached by Ross Mahoney. The tournament consisted of five Canadian Teams and the National Teams from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Sweden and the USA. The Mearns family, including Rick's Grandparents Frank and Dolly Nameth, traveled four days by vehicle to watch this tournament held from December 28 to January 4, 1991.
On August 15, 1992, Rick was killed in a car accident in Regina at the age of seventeen. It was brought to our attention, by Ken Nameth, Rick's uncle, that a trophy was needed for the Bantam Tier 1 Tournament. It was decided that since Rick played his final year of Bantam in Regina at this level, they would donate a trophy on behalf of their son, brother and uncle. As well as a trophy being donated in Rick's memory, the Portland Winter Hawks have not officially retired his #10, but has said that no one will ever wear the number in honor of the late Rick Mearns.
Donating this trophy in Rick's memory somehow keeps his love of the game of hockey alive for our family. We remember our son skating with a championship trophy above his head. Now we wish that every player, at least once in his lifetime, would have a chance to hold a championship trophy above his head.
The Mearns family would like to extend a welcome to the Bantam AA Challenge Tournament in Regina, to all players, past and present and in the future.
Each year a representative from the Mearns family attend the final game of the tournament and present the trophy to the winning team. Although there has been a lot changes to this tournament the Mearns tradition will be here forever.