A hockey player holds a championship cup above his head in celebration as another player smiles for the camera.

Players from Carpenters 27 celebrate, one of the four division champions at the NORCAT-Threads of Life hockey tournament this year

At its best, sport can bring people together and create inspiration. That’s clearly the case for the annual NORCAT-Threads of Life hockey tournament.

“I enjoy the opportunity to meet up with fellow tradespeople and friends each year, have friendly competition and raise a few extra dollars for a great cause,” says tournament founder and organizer Dan Fleming.

Dan is the Toronto region manager for NORCAT, a skilled labour training and development company. He is also a Threads of Life family member – Dan’s father, whom he’s named after, died of lung cancer after years as a boilermaker working in oil refineries, power plants, pulp and paper mills and steel plants.

The hockey tournament, now more than 30 years old, predates Threads of Life. Dan started the tournament in 1992 when he was working as a carpenter. His brother was a millwright and the two “thought it would be great to start a hockey tournament between the two trades,” Dan explains. The event has grown steadily since then, this year with 21 teams representing unions, trade groups, and contracting companies.

Dan became familiar with Threads of Life while working at the Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO, now the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association). But after 2008, when his father died, he became more involved.

“I introduced my mum to Threads of Life and the family forum, and was able to see all the great work and support that Threads of Life provides to families,” he says. From there the idea was born to make the annual hockey tournament a fundraiser for the organization.

Since 2016, the renamed NORCAT-Threads of Life Charity Hockey Tournament has raised close to $40,000 to support families affected by workplace tragedy. After some down-years during the pandemic, 2023 was the biggest ever, bringing in more than $10,000. Teams from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), UA787, Carpenters 27, and EllisDon all won their divisional finals.

The contributions to Threads of Life come from the teams’ registration fees, sponsorships and donations. These funds help to sustain the programs and services for families affected by workplace tragedies. But the tournament is a winner in building connection and inspiration too.

“The tournament is a great opportunity for the construction trades to network, create comradeship,” Dan says, “and we also raise awareness of safety and of the support that is provided by Threads of Life.”