Everyone is aware that hockey is King in Canada and that Canada is considered the number one spot for Ice Hockey in the world, it is Canadian and this becomes fully evident around this time of year as the country prepares for the annual World Jr. Championships and flags start flying everywhere, whether you're a hockey fan or not.
However, have you ever taken the time to think about who is the number one province in Canada for Ice Hockey?
Without putting much thought into it, one would probably pick Ontario or Quebec without even thinking it through because there are so many more players in the NHL born in those provinces than ours or any others in Eastern Canada. I never really even thought about it myself to tell you the truth and I probably would pick Ontario and Quebec as well, but this past Monday I did an interview for CBC Morning Sports and I was asked what I thought of the state of hockey in NL..... I paused for a second and thought to myself, how can we NOT be considered the leader in this category.
I immediately recalled a conversation I had with a gentleman at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay after an AESHL game and we discussed the state of Senior Hockey in NL. The night before was the true test as the Ice Caps who had just recently returned to the AHL in St. John’s had a weekend home stand and of course they were sold out on Friday Night, there was a Sr. game in Mount Pearl I believe where I was told that there was close to a 1000 people at the game, the Grand Falls Cataracts had a sold out building that night as well and we had about 300 at ours. To be completely honest with you, I was shocked actually! I thought that we the return of Professional hockey to NL that the Fan Base for local Sr. hockey would’ve diminished quite a bit, even to the point of concern that it could jeopardize all the hard work that has been done to get the game back to where it belongs today.
That then lead me to look into things a little more and I started to look at all the new buildings that have gone up in the province in the past decade starting from the West Coast of the island you have; Channel Port-aux-Basques with a renovated Bruce II Arena, which in my opinion has the best concept and set up out of all of them on the island. We then move on to S’Ville and Corner Brook, which both had new buildings when the Canada Games was hosted on the West Coast and Deer Lake’s Hodder Memorial has also received a facelift and has become a state of the art arena as well as as a recreation gathering place for the whole community as the Bruce II has. We then continue across the island to Grand Falls-Windsor which has the Joe looking like one of the nicest arenas that I have ever stepped foot in, as soon as you walk in the door you can see the great work done as the lobby is as nice looking as anything you will see around. Sorry, we need to back track a bit, I forgot to travel up the coast to the new arena in Rocky Harbour, which I have not had the pleasure of visiting yet but have heard many great things about the facility. Gander has also had a new Arena in the past decade as well as the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay and the new additions to the Glacier in Mount Pearl. This is combined with the recent announcements for new arenas in Paradise, CBS and Harbour Grace proves to me that hockey is definitely king here in NL considering the distance between those communities. Where else is such infrastructure taking place like this to ensure our children can play this great game!!
Also, at the summer meetings in Gander this past year, HNL announced that it reached an All-Time high of 11,185 registered players in Minor Hockey in the province and this is very evident here on the East coast as Associations have to travel outside there district in order to find practice and game times to accommodate everyone and at times this means the old 6 a.m. practices are still alive and well. The amazing thing about all of this is that this is occurring with a population base of just over 500,000 people at last estimate, which means there are about 13% as a rough estimate of all school aged children in the province play organized ice hockey which is a large number. This combined with the many many number of recreation hockey players and the 2 very strong based Junior Hockey Leagues has to have us up there at the top of the leader board without a doubt.
So, the next time you’re out and about at a local Tim Horton’s or chatting up hockey in some web forum or wherever you may be, you can take pride in the fact that you hail from not only the best Province in this Country for many reasons, but now mainly because you can call NL the new Hockey Hot Bed of Canada!!
Stay tuned for next weeks blog as I’ll be delivering the Christmas Wish List for 2011, should be a lot of fun and I’d also like to invite you to check out a new web portal I am working on to provide a medium for players, parents and coaches to reach out and discuss many different aspects of the game. It can be located by navigating to