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Bill Jones 3-on-3 tournament comes to a close


by Sylene Argent

After 18-years of success, organizers have decided to end the annual Bill Jones 3-on-3 tournament on a high note.

  Since the puck dropped at the first tournament, held the former Essex Memorial Arena in 2002, the Bill Jones 3-on-3 tournament has raised over $400,000, estimated one of the event’s organizers, Lee Jones.

  The annual tournament was implemented as a memorial event for Lee’s father, Bill, who was an avid volunteer. Bill passed away in April of 2001, and was heavily involved in senior baseball and was a past executive member with the Essex 73’s, going back to when it was in its infancy. He was also a life member and volunteer at the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201).

  Jamie McDermott, who was with the 73’s at the time as a coach, suggested a 3-on-3 tournament be held locally. He knew of an individual, who worked in the states, whose son played on hockey team across the boarder. That team created this type of tournament after a teammate, and his dad, tragically passed away as a result of a car accident on their way home from a game where the son had scored the winning goal.

  McDermott was invited to the event, and brought Lee and a few other friends with him.

  Bill, McDermott explained, passed away around the same time as plans were underway for the local tournament. McDermott recalls telling Lee this tournament would be a great acknowledgement to his dad.

  The Bill Jones 3-on-3 Tournament offered three players an opportunity to play hockey for eight minutes.

  “We thought we would do it here,” Lee explained. “That first year, we had 20 teams and raised $5000.” The proceeds were divided between the local minor baseball and hockey leagues.

  Fast forwarding to its final year, which took place in April of 2019 at the Essex Centre Sports Complex, the event attracted 72 teams – which were broken into divisions for males, females, youths, and adults – and raised $22,000 for local causes, Lee said.

  “It kind of, to us, took off in a hurry,” McDermott agreed. “As it caught on, between the novelty of it, and the way the Essex community is so giving and supporting, to see it evolved into over 70 teams was not really surprising to us.”

  “It was a great thing,” Lee said of the longstanding tournament. “Everything went back into the community [to support] hockey, baseball, and people facing hardships.” While some of the funds supported local sports, Lee noted some of the proceeds went to support individuals needing a bit of assistance, like buying hospital parking passes for those undergoing cancer treatment and purchasing computers for students with financial hardships.

  McDermott, who ended up with heart complications, was one of the many individuals who benefited from the tournament. When he was in the hospital in Detroit, some of the proceeds from the tournament helped pay for wife to stay in hotel near the hospital.

  Jones gave a lot of credit to Dave Kigar, Marcello Mastroianni, and Joe Grondin for their commitment to the annual 3-on-3 tournament, whose contributions certainly ensured the annual event lasted 18 seasons.

  These individuals, took the torch and ensured the event continued for as long as it did. “And, it kept getting bigger,” Less said of the evolution of the annual tourney.

  He was also grateful to the countless volunteers, who dedicated their time every year. On average, 50 volunteers pulled together to make the tournament happen annually.  

  Liability, Lee said, was the biggest reason the tournament has concluded.

  “It was a lot of work [to host the tournament],” Lee said. “But it was just for the community and that’s what my dad was about.”

  “It is unfortunate it has to end,” McDermott added. “But, I am thankful for those who helped out over the years. It has been a great event.”

  Lee said he also could not say enough about the support his brother, Bill JR, sister, Deb, and mom, Wonda, showed the event, in addition to his wife, Karen, and sons Riley, Brendan, and Mackie. A special moment for Lee’s family was when all three of his sons’ teams won their respective divisions, in their grandfather’s tournament, one year.

  “The volunteers and sponsorships were unbelievable because they knew where the money was going,” Less said, adding that there is some money remaining in a reserve from the tournament, which will be used to support future programs.

  “It has a great run. I think he [Bill] is pretty happy with what we’ve done. We had people play in the tournament as kids, who ended up in the NHL,” Lee added.    

  Lee continued that the tournament, for some, was a homecoming for many, who used the opportunity to visit with old friends. “But, everything has to come to an end.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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