AUBURN — The 51st Annual Lions Tournament drew generations of hockey fans over the weekend to the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn.

The Maine Gladiators Mites ended the season on a high note — with plenty of good sportsmanship and spectators — in celebration of a tradition dating back more than half a century. The Lions Tournament is the longest-running youth hockey tournament in the nation, according to officials.

Some athletes were chaperoned by grandparents who played in the tournament’s early days, while at least one athlete from every team had a parent as a coach, many of whom also played in the tournament, said Shelly Wheeler, a member of the Maine Gladiators board.

“That’s one of the most heartwarming pieces to this: The number of people who come in with grandkids, or even those with no affiliation who say, ‘I’ve been coming to the Lions Tournament for 40 years,’ or ‘I played in the very first one,’ or ‘I was on the Holy Cross team back in the day,'” Wheeler said. “Everybody knows the Lions Tournament in the hockey world, so it’s nice to see the community come out and support the kids.”

The 10 Mites teams were all from Maine, mostly the Lewiston-Auburn area. The tournament also draws 10-and-older teams from Augusta, Brewer, Dover-Foxcroft and other communities, including Henniker, New Hampshire.

Wheeler’s family is deeply involved, including her son, Curtis, who was officiating many of the games Sunday. He began with hockey 10 years ago, playing where the Mites were this weekend, according to Shelly Wheeler.


“To see these kids give back,” she said. “It’s really fun to watch it evolve into the next generation.”

Jeremy Henry of Lewiston was cheering for his son, Wyatt, who plays for the Gladiators Orange team, when he shared a similar story. Wyatt began playing hockey more than four years ago because of family and and the Lewiston-Auburn tradition of youth hockey. Henry said the game teaches children to develop themselves so they can work with others as a team.

The Maine Gladiators 8U Yellow team relaxes between games Sunday as the Zamboni refreshes the ice during the 51st Annual Lions Tournament at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Mike Dozois, one of the Gladiators Green Team coaches, said he has been coaching hockey for 17 years and remembers putting his 24-year-old son through his paces. Dozois, who played in the tournament back when it was in Lewiston’s youth center, is now coaching his 12-year-old daughter, Lola, who plays on the Gladiators Green team.

“To keep this thing going for all the kids, to see it just grow to this level of excitement, with all these fans — it’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s a great environment and there’s a lot of support for everyone. We’re keeping the game of hockey alive in Lewiston-Auburn, you know?”

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