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Winnipeg hockey tournament pays tribute to teenager killed in 2016

Cooper Nemeth was killed in a homicide in 2016 and now, his family hosts an annual hockey tournament in his honour with funds raised used to help other young athletes achieve their potential when it comes to the sport of hockey. @_MorganModjeski

By Morgan Modjeski

The scratch of skates on the ice and pucks against a stick could be heard at the Gateway Community Centre in Winnipeg this weekend.

The tournament behind the sweet sound of Canada’s game took on a different meaning – well beyond hockey.

The annual tournament was in honour of Cooper Nemeth, a high school hockey player killed in 2016. His death resulted in a second-degree murder conviction.

Funds raised at the fourth annual Cooper Nemeth Memorial Hockey Tournament help other young athletes achieve their potential on ice.

“If I’m standing on the bench here, and I look up, and see the whole arena packed, yeah, it’s good feeling,” Brent Nemeth, Cooper’s father, told CityNews. “And to support the kids. But the kids in turn are giving back to the community themselves, and making this day possible for us.

“The help we had from the community at the time we needed it and we didn’t ask was incredible. So with Cooper and his love for hockey, the way we could give back was to put on this day, invite all these players. Come out and play and have a good time and in the meantime, raising a lot of funds which we can now put back into the community.”

WATCH: Cooper Nemeth’s mom shares her pain at the sentencing hearing for her son’s killer (2018)

Cooper’s memory and love of the sport lives on through the event, which raises money for a player assistance fund that bears his name.

Cooper Nemeth, a 17-year-old high school hockey player killed in 2016. (Credit: CityNews/Morgan Modjeski)

His father, the executive director of the tournament, says the event aims to ensure everyone can pursue the sport they love.

“I’ve seen it firsthand,” said Nemeth. “I’ve been coaching for many years and we don’t see kids at tryouts and then players get hurt, or sick during the season and we call up from the lower levels and I’m like, ‘well where were these kids at tryouts. And then you find out that financially it was hard for the parents to play that level. Now, this removes that. If the kid is good enough to play, this fund is here to help them.”

Ghost guns in Winnipeg

Nemeth’s death, according to Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth, was one of the first in the city involving an improvised firearm; the weapon used to kill the 17-year-old River East Collegiate student was not a true firearm.

Instead it was a modified airsoft gun, or what’s referred to as ghost guns. Those weapons have become more prevalent on city streets in recent years. Police seized another category of the weapon – a 40 Calibre 3D-printed gun – just earlier this month.

Looking at the young people around him, Brent Nemeth says the fact more and more of these weapons are showing up is concerning. He believes those responsible for crafting the sometimes untraceable guns must be held responsible for the pain they cause.

“It’s scary as a parent, right?” said Nemeth.

“All I can say is there should be a lot more restrictions and people held more accountable. For sure.”

Cooper Nemeth’s No. 7 jersey hangs over the benches at the fourth annual Cooper Nemeth Memorial Hockey Tournament on March 25, 2023. (Credit: CityNews/Morgan Modjeski)

Nemeth says those interested in next year’s tournament should reach out and become part of the action on the ice.

He says the Cooper Nemeth Memorial Hockey Tournament is a way of keeping his son’s memory, and the power of the sport, alive.

“It’s not only just a game, but it’s a family,” said Nemeth.

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