More than five decades ago, dozens of Greeks fled sun-kissed Greece and emigrated to some of the toughest, coldest terrain in North America.
Like generations before them, these Greeks left their ancestral homes and traveled to unchartered territory in search of prosperity and opportunity — something their native Greece couldn’t provide them at that time.
And like all immigrants, they sought to balance the challenging task of holding on to valued old-world traditions while assimilating in their adopted cultures.
In one midwest Canadian province called Saskatchewan, hockey was the natural connection, allowing Greeks to stay together while simultaneously embracing the national pastime.
It was Christmas day 1973 in a farming town called Moose Jaw — more than 5,000 miles from Greece and hours away from the familiar “Greektowns” of Toronto and Montreal. In this town, four sons of Greek immigrants had met on the corner of 1st Avenue and Hochelaga Street — hockey sticks and pucks in hand.
They were all young boys, caught between two cultural worlds, urged by their parents to remain 100% Greek while they tried so hard to fit in and be simultaneously 100% Canadian.
Stephan Lentzos, Peter Lentzos, Nick Kourles and George Dimas started an annual hockey game that would grow to span time and generations. Today, it includes 30 cousins, sons and nephews of the original four, all of whom play hockey in subzero temperatures and feet of snow.
Award-winning filmmaker Panayioti Yannitsos saw a compelling story in his own community and decided to make a short documentary film about this phenomenon called “The Hochelaga Cup.”
One thing is for certain — Lord Stanley, whose name is on hockey’s most coveted trophy, would be proud.
Yannitsos offered the following statement about his film.
“As a filmmaker and storyteller I often look no further than my own family. “The Hochelaga Cup” has become the subject of a documentary I produced, directed, and just released, placing this unique and personal story of cultural assimilation in a time capsule for generations to come. For every refugee and immigrant family who took a chance, every child trying to come to terms with their surroundings, and every family who keeps finding reasons to stay together, this film is my ode to you. It’s my way of saying don’t be afraid and look around. Catalysts for cultural assimilation, in this country, grow bigger by the day. My grandparents, uncles and aunts thankfully realized that long ago and continue to realize it. They’ve stayed Greek while becoming Canadian and this documentary is my way of saying ‘thank you.'”
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