A memorial hockey tournament was held in Pictou County Saturday for three young hockey players and mother killed in a car crash 32 years ago.

John Allan MacDonald, Donald Gladwin, Shawn MacKay, and his mother Lee Marie MacKay, were killed in a highway crash while returning to Pictou County from a New Brunswick hockey tournament.

The Pictou County Bantam Memorial Hockey Tournament began the next year, and in the decades since, it’s become a much-loved tradition celebrating their memory, the sport and the community.

For coach Larry Turnbull, the tournament has personal meaning.

“I played on the original team there, and it means a lot to me. A lot,” said Turnbull.

There are 26 teams registered this year and more than 500 players.

“It's the memory of those boys and it's such a status for the kids to play in this tournament in those boys' memories,” said tournament chair Jane MacKay. “It's huge. It's what they start out as in the bantam division for when they try out for teams. They want to play in this tournament.”

The tournament has seen its share of talent over the years. The most valuable player in 2001 was Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. 

“It's been successful because over time, it has become an institution,” said sports reporter Steve Goodwin. “It's been here for over 30 years, and teams want to come here.”

It's been said the tournament exemplifies Pictou County's community spirit and passion for hockey.

“It's so nice to see people coming together to support the hockey and the community and to remember these families and the kids,” said parent Nancy MacConnell-Maxner.

Coach Turnbull says what makes it special for him is the bond he shares with his old teammates and the community.

“There was friendships there and bonds that were made that are going to last a lifetime,” he said. “Seeing them this weekend, and it brings back lots of memories and lots of laughs.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Dan MacIntosh.