About the tournament
In 2017, Alex Haapajoki lost his brother to suicide and it really shattered the community. Alex’s brother, Jake, was a caring, funny and outgoing kid. Nobody really knew what he was going through. In honour of Jake, Alex and members of his family started a movement called Smilesforjake, an organization dedicated to suicide presentation that spreads positivity through life-affirming actions, listening ears, and the message that everyone should have hope. By doing Smilesforjake, it has changed their community and many other communities stigma around suicide. Alex used to play with Jake in a small tournament that they called the Gatorade Cup–it was because they played for a jug of Gatorade. Even though he says his brother wasn’t the best skater, he would lace them up and play. That’s when he decided to make a tournament in memory of Jake and raise money for Smilesforjake. With the help of his family members, they created the Jake Haapajoki Memorial Cup. There have been people from all over the state playing on it, and he says “it is way bigger than we could ever have imagined”. In the two years, they have been doing the tournament, there have been 90+ teams and it’s only getting bigger. They have raised over $6,000 for Smilesforjake and project that it will only continue to increase every year. They have found that the key to the growth of the tournament is social media, which allowed them to reach all corners of Minnesota.
How long has the tournament been running for?
They have run the tournament for two years now. One of the biggest changes they’ve had to make was adding more divisions, they wanted everybody to be able to participate. To date, they’ve had 2 divisions: pro and intermediate. This upcoming season they plan on having 3 divisions: pro, intermediate and beginners (no hockey experience). The other major change they’ve made is having enough volunteers to officiate the games. With more and more teams playing, they need all the help they can get!
Favourite part about organizing it
Alex and his family say the best thing about running the tournament, is the smile on peoples faces. It has blown their mind about how much the community rallies behind the tournament. Thousands of people cycle in and out throughout the day to come to check it out and socialize. They love socializing with everyone and spreading positivity. Alex says “it’s truly a beautiful thing to see your community come together and just have fun and spread positivity. I miss my brother every day and would do anything to get him back, but I’m very proud of the steps we have made in stomping out the stigma in his name. I love you, Jake”.
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