Hockey tournament draws doctors from across BC

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 3, April 2017, Pages 149-150 News
Physician hockey teams have been facing off for 34
years, and the tournament now uses every rink in Vernon.
"It's a lot of fun, win or lose. But more when you win."

The Vernon Doctors Hockey Tournament, the largest physician hockey tournament of its kind in Western Canada, took place 3–4 March 2017, celebrating an astounding 34-year run and attracting 340 physicians from around the province.

The tournament is open to physicians of any discipline, including medical residents, medical students, and retired doctors. It draws so much interest, in fact, that it’s been capped to 24 teams, and uses every rink in Vernon. True to its roots, the rink in Lumby continues to host games. A total of 48 games are played over the 2-day period.

“The tournament provides the opportunity to gather in a physician-focused environment, centred around a shared love of hockey,” says Dr Chris Cunningham, Vernon GP and organizing committee member. “This year’s tournament is dedicated to Dr Will Cawkell and the contributions he’s made over 3 decades.”

Longtime creator, contributor, and local legend, Dr Cawkell has stepped down from the organizing committee, ending an era. Dr Cawkell, who completed medical school at University of Toronto, chose to practise in the rural community of Lumby, east of Vernon, in 1968. He had a general practice and practised anesthesia before he moved to Vernon a few years later and worked there until he retired in March 2016.

As a longtime hockey fan, Dr Cawkell started the tournament in Lumby in 1983, when it had only four teams of doctors from Vancouver, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Vernon. This started an over-3 decade run for Dr Cawkell and his team, which he aptly named the Lumby General Hospital (in a community that only sports a health centre). After many years of playing, Dr Cawkell stepped down from active play but continued as the team coach.

Dr Cawkell always incorporated his love for hockey and his love for medicine into the event. Each tournament has entertaining and informative guest speakers, as well as a CME symposium. Past keynote speakers include NHL stars Trevor Linden, Sheldon Kennedy, and Bryan Trottier. This year’s speaker was Dave “Tiger” Williams, notorious former Canucks star, having accumulated more penalty minutes than anyone else in the NHL.

Each year, several massage therapy students donate their time to ease the players’ sore muscles and battered egos. 

Some of the funds raised during the tournament go back to the community with donations to local charities. In addition to a Vernon-area cause, a matching donation is given to a visiting team to take back to a charity of their choice in their community.

The camaraderie that the tournament garners leaves a lasting impact on the participating physicians. It provides a unique opportunity to meet fellow physicians from near or far throughout BC and beyond and informally exchange knowledge and discuss issues they may be facing in practice. It’s the highlight of the year for many and connects individuals who otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so.

“One of the objectives of the tournament is the opportunity for residents and students to speak with practising physicians. More seasoned physicians can speak to them on their experience in this fulfilling career,” says Dr Gavin Smart, member of the organizing committee.

It also provides students and residents the chance to explore opportunities after medical school by giving practising physicians a venue to recruit residents to clinics or hospitals within their communities. “The residents and students often continue to attend the event long after they finish medical school, and in turn, assist the next generation of new physicians,” says Dr Smart.

“It’s a lot of fun, win or lose. But more when you win,” says one physician. The true heart of the tournament is this fierce but amicable competition.

Doctors of BC has supported the event for the past 2 years and looks forward to participating in its 35th anniversary tournament in 2018. Congratulations to Dr Cawkell for his tireless commitment to this spectacular event.
—Brent Weiss
Regional Advisor and Advocate, Interior
Doctors of BC

Dr Will Cawkell and Dr Denise Bateman
of the team Lumby General Hospital.
The camaraderie that the tournament generates is one of the things that 
attracts teams from all over BC.

Brent Weiss. Hockey tournament draws doctors from across BC. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 3, April, 2017, Page(s) 149-150 - News.

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