The Wade Hamer Challenge Cup began in 1985 as the Colonel's Challenge Cup. It earned it's name, and the original trophy, because the game was sponsored by the Jason family which owned the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. The game was meant to be - and has continued to be - a friendly hockey game between St. Pat's and Sir John. One of the driving forces behind this game was a young St. Pat's student named Wade Hamer who had the vision of setting up a game between the two schools. The game was renamed in his memory after he died tragically in an automobile accident in 1987.
Over the years, the game has seen many changes. One of the key changes has been its format. For the first 11 games of the Challenge Cup, male students, female students and school staff all played in the same game - sometimes in alternating lines, alternating periods or all mixed together. In 1996, the game was split up into three sections: one period for the teachers, one period for female students, and two periods for the male students. Shortly after the turn of the millenium, the teacher's game was abandoned to allow for the female game to have a second period as well. This is the format that has continued on to this day.
Another change in the game is the location. The first games were played at Yellowknife's first arena: the Gerry Murphy Arena. In later years, the game moved to the newly-opened Yellowknife Community Arena where the stands allowed for a larger audience. When the City expanded its number of ice surfaces again, opening up the dual rink Multiplex, the game moved to the Olympic-sized Ed Jeske Arena.
The game has also had several traditions that have stood out over the years. In the first days of the Gerry Murphy, fans of each school would sit on the opposite side of the ice. At some point in the game, and there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when, the fans of both schools would get up and walk past each other to switch sides of the rink. As the students and staff walked past each other, many playful barbs were bounced back and forth.
In the early 2000s, the game moved from the night-time to the daytime to allow all students to attend regardless of other extra-curricular commitments. Students now venture over to the game in lieu of afternoon classes (something we're sure the founders would have supported!).
Currently, students deck themselves out in green or blue (or, for the more brave at heart, paint themselves green or blue) and take pride in screaming the loudest as their school battles it out for high school hockey supremacy. While the hockey action is contained to the ice surface, the cheering battles in the stands are almost as competitive!
Throughout the years, this game has persevered and actually has grown into one of the largest one-day sporting events in the Northwest Territories. In doing so, it has not forgotten its humble roots and it continues to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two schools while showcasing their great hockey talent.