A friend’s reference has given Portage la Prairie peewee hockey star Jaytey Towle the memory of a lifetime.
From May 1-4, Towle, 12, from Dakota Plains First Nation, was invited to join the GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) Heat under-13 hockey team based out of Doha, Qatar at the 2013 Hong Kong Mega 5’s hockey tournament.
Billed as the largest ice hockey tournament in Asia, the tournament attracts a wide variety of youth teams from all over the world. The tournament featured teams Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, France and Germany along with teams from Asia and the Middle East.
After a long four days of competitive hockey, Towle and the GCC Heat defeated the Shanghai Thunderbirds 2-0 in a hard fought final to win the gold medal.
Towle was not just an integral part of the team, earning the Most Valuable Player Award in two of the games, he was also named the MVP of the entire tournament.
So how does a kid from Portage end up in Hong Kong playing high-level international hockey?
“A person who used to live in Portage, a person we knew, had moved to Doha, Qatar,” Jaytey explained. “The team from Doha didn’t have enough players so he asked a goalie from Portage named Riley Sveistrup to go. When Riley was told they needed another player he told them about me and a few days later my parents got an email and we just decided to go.”
The Qatar team had players from Canada, Sweden, Finland, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar. Towle, a defenseman, and the son of former Winkler Flyers star Jason Towle (1992-94) and his wife Evangeline, had no trouble fitting in. A skilled team player, he scored one goal during the tournament, but “added countless assists.”
The Heat opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Hong Kong AIH, then they lost 4-2 to the Shanghai Thunderbirds in their second game on Day 1. In their second meeting, Shanghai and GCC tied 1-1, but then the Heat beat Hong Kong AIH 2-0 to wrap up the round robin and easily make it to the championship game with a 2-1-1 record. In the one-game winner-take-all final, GCC beat Shanghai 2-0 to claim the title.
The Hong Kong Mega Ice Hockey 5’s tournament is played on the international-sized ice surface at the MegaBox HK Shopping Mall, a gigantic structure that also includes arts and entertainment complexes and a hockey rink.
“It was really fun,” said Jaytey, a Grade 7 student at Ecole Arthur Meighen in Portage. “We had big crowds. We played the tournament at a rink on the 10th floor of a mall. I remember playing a game and my mom went shopping. It was really cool and it was worth it.”
Jaytey has seldom been off the ice in his young life. He started playing organized hockey at age 4 and has been playing regularly in winter and summer ever since. He just finished the 2012-13 season with the Portage Terriers Peewee AA team and is getting set to make the transition to bantam hockey in the fall.
“Jaytey just had the experience of a lifetime,” said his mom. “We played hockey and shopped and did the Hong Kong Disney experience. It was excellent. We had a great time.
“Now, we’re just going to the rink and the training centre, trying to get him ready to make the move up to bantam this season.”
The GCC Heat team was established in 2011 and traveled to their first overseas tournament in Geneva, Switzerland in 2012.
Head Coach Ron MacLellan, a Canadian, who is based in Doha, was delighted with the team’s performance.
“Working with these kids has been a fantastic experience,” he said. “Each of them has demonstrated dedication, sportsmanship and passion for the game of hockey. I am so proud of them for having gelled so quickly as a team and for having played their hearts out in Hong Kong.”