For nearly three decades, the Vince Ryan Memorial Hockey Tournament has attracted hockey players from around the world to Cape Breton. But for the last two years, organizers have had to deal with smaller crowds and financial losses in the thousands of dollars, as they search for a new home arena for the tournament.

“The crowds at the Bayplex were wonderful, they were huge,” explains tournament chair Richie Warren. “Moving to other rinks, the crowd that was at Glace Bay didn’t come out, they stayed home.”

In July of 2017 Glace Bay’s only arena was shut down, after officials found mold and other structural issues, forcing the tournament to find a new home.

Catherine Ryan, the widow of the tournament’s namesake, say it’s just not the same without the ‘Bayplex’.

“It makes a difference. I can’t wait for it to come back to Glace Bay, because that’s where you met everyone, you see all your old friends and you meet new friends,” said Catherine Ryan.

Vince Ryan played his hockey days in Glace Bay at the forum, and is believed to be the third highest scorer in the Maritime Senior Hockey League at the time.

This week, Cape Breton Member of Parliament Rodger Cuzner announced $150,000 in funding for the tournament to be shared over three years, and says the event will soon return to Glace Bay.

“The Bayplex is on the way to recovery, it’s been tough,” says Cuzner. “We are absolutely committed to making sure that building is one our community can be proud of.”

Renovations at the Bayplex are expected to begin in the spring, with the doors reopening in July of 2020. In the meantime, the doublepad arena in Membertou will be the host for this year’s tournament, which raises money for Cape Breton high school students.

“Over the years, the big winners of the Vince Ryan Tournament have been the kids with the scholarships,” adds Richie Warren. “They are the real winners of this tournament.”

To date the tournament has raised more than $900,000 in scholarships, but Warren says until the tournament returns to Glace Bay, they’ll continue to lose money.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.