Leaside Wildcats host to record-size tournament

Leaside’s annual March Break Madness Tournament is under way today, with record numbers of girls and women taking to the ice in 12 arenas around the city.

The 36th annual tournament, put on by Leaside Wildcats on the March 13-15 weekend, sees more than 2,200 players on 140 teams take to the ice. This year’s turnout breaks the previous record of 130 teams. According to Wildcats president Jennifer Smith, organizers had to turn away another 10 teams, who were too late in applying to join.

Another record set in this year’s tournament is by a team from the San Francisco Bay area in California. They’re now the farthest-traveled team to play in the tournament, a title previously held by a team from Dallas, Tx.

Twenty-seven of the 140 teams are from Leaside.

While teams will be gunning for victory when they hit the ice, Smith said for many of the girls the tournament is also about having fun.

“If they’re having a good time, then we’ve done our job well,” she said. “We had a team lose with six seconds left this morning and they still came off smiling.”

Smith says all of the Leaside teams have a sense of pride in being hosts, since they all volunteer to help organize the tournament.

“It’s a big commitment for our teams, but it also builds a nice sense of community,” she said. “There’s a real pride in hosting these teams — and even a little swagger.”

Of the 12 arenas used for the tournament, Leaside Memorial Gardens on Millwood Drive and York Mills Arena on Bayview Avenue are located in midtown.