Former NHL star expected to set unofficial record at tournament.
Former National Hockey League star Reggie Leach is once again expected to set an unofficial record for most teams played for in a Native tournament.
Leach will be the feature attraction at a Regina-based event, which last year was renamed in his honour.
The third annual Oskana Cup Reggie Leach Hockey Challenge is set for Apr. 4 to 6. Matches will be held at Canlan Ice Sports Regina.
Leach is expected to suit up for the Regina Rifles, the defending champions that will once again compete in the masters' 40-and-over category.
As in previous years, Leach though will in all likelihood also play for several other clubs in the tournament, which was simply dubbed the Oskana Cup in its inaugural year.
"We have a rule where he's a rover," said tournament chairman Milt Tootoosis. "He plays a shift here and a shift there or a period or two for other teams just so different players can say they had a chance to play with him. It's a nice touch and something other tournaments don't do."
Leach, 57, was once one of the top players in the NHL. He scored a career high 61 goals during the 1975-76 season as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Leach, who was born in Riverton, Man., played a total of 1,028 NHL games and collected 735 points (428 goals, 307 assists).
Leach's totals could have been even more impressive if he had not abused alcohol during his playing career. He now frequently openly discusses his past drinking problems to various Native groups.
As in the first two runnings of the tournament, Leach is expected to get out into the community when he's not playing and give talks to a handful of Regina-area schools or youth organizations.
"He's in demand because of his powerful message of the perils of drug and alcohol abuse," Tootoosis said.
This year's tournament is expected to feature 32 clubs, the same number that participated a year ago.
"We don't want to grow too fast," Tootoosis said of the event, which attracted 17 entrants during its inaugural year in 2006. "And we want to build up demand. We're only in year three. By year five we want to double it."
Besides the 40-and-over division, there will also be another masters grouping, for those 35 and over. There will also be two other men's divisions; one will feature contact action while the other will be recreational and not allow contact.
A women's category will also once again be staged.
The tournament will offer more than $28,000 in cash and prizes. The top prize of $7,000 will be awarded to the champions of the men's open division.
Tootoosis is hoping the tournament attendance will also increase this year because a large pow wow will be staged at Regina's Brandt Centre during the same dates as the tournament.
"That's going to bring a lot more people who will travel to Regina," he said. "And we hope they'll come see some of our hockey games."
More information about the tournament is available at www.oksanacup.org or by calling (306) 381-7956.
BY SAM LASKARIS
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|Title Annotation:||SPORTS; Reggie Leach; Oskana Cup Reggie Leach Hockey Challenge|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2008|
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