Hometown Hockey and a Pride for Puck
Wednesday, April 5, 20170 Comments
Photo by Allie Cotter, courtesy of author
From leaf legends like Cujo, to world calibre skaters like Doughty, Callahan and Couture, the city of Guelph has had a hand in launching hockey pros into the NHL, to the delight of fans both young and old.
This weekend, Guelph had the honour of being a pit stop for Hometown Hockey - a joint initiative by Rogers and the NHL to take Canada’s favourite game on the road for 23 weeks straight.
Market Square was decorated with skill-testing activities and entertainment: physical tests such as breakaway challenges, accuracy and strength shot measurements; practical challenges of the game like trying your hand with ref cam goggles, trivia featuring your favourite players around the league or “going upstairs” as the experts would in New York to see if a good goal would stand or be called off.
This was all leading up to one of the most exciting events… the arrival of the Stanley Cup. The downtown area was littered with hockey fans from Friday until Sunday. It was quite the sight to see fans of all ages, from the little gryphons in tyke, atom and peewee players, parents, coaches and students, all under the great equalizer of fans of Canada’s game out to enjoy the festivities.
I grew up playing hockey, and it’s hard to forget the sounds of carving ice and goal horns. Unfortunately, I also distinctly remember the ring of puck meeting post.
I’m from a small town where I was just one of five girls playing in an all boys contact league. I played five seasons out of Bradford, before switching to an all girls league in Barrie. I attended OHL and NHL games regularly and when I came to university, and I was disheartened by the idea that it was my time to say good bye to the game. Thankfully, I found out that Guelph too was a wonderful hockey town – more so than I’d ever experienced.
Although I only played intramurals, one of my fondest memories while at school comes from winning both the bragging rights and making a fashion statement, sporting that “intramural champs” t-shirt. But Guelph reminded me that you can still stay attached to a sport without having to play it. The memories I hold closest stem from a side of the ice I’m not so used to being on: the spectators.
Attending Sunday afternoon Storm games is something I’d suggest to any hockey lover, as the tickets are fairly priced and the boys always put on a good show – after all, it’s these players that are going to go big in the NHL following the draft. I’ve had the privilege of watching hockey magicians like Conor McDavid and Guelph Storm’s own Robby Fabri for the price of fifteen dollars… you won’t be able to say that now that they’ve gone pro.
Beyond the O, our university success is also an indication of Guelph’s hockey town status; watching our Guelph Gryphons on campus, and following the stats on the road has been a pleasure in the last four years.
Earlier this semester, the men’s hockey team played in and subsequently won their eighth annual Frosty Mug game, with a record attendance of 4,670 fired up supporters all packed into the Sleeman Centre. Although it was due to the relentless pressure put on by our Gryphs, I think the largest crowd in frosty mug history really helped to rally our Gryphons to take the game 2-1 over the Laurier Golden hawks.
The magic continued during the season with our women’s hockey team carrying a regular season record of 16-4-3-1, but they didn’t stop there. The Lady Gryphs continued to blank teams throughout the playoffs, claiming the McCaw Cup and the OUA title in back to back seasons for the first time since the 1969-1970 seasons.
Maybe you’re not a hockey lover, in which case a lot of these names and references may appear irrelevant to you. But being a part of this campus, and a part of this community, it’s hard to deny that there is a keen and kind sense of communal pride in our reputation for puck.
For me, this city’s relationship with hockey has helped me form connections, friendships and traditions that will last far beyond my four years in Guelph. So here’s to you Guelph, a hometown with heart, and lover of our great game.
Editor's Note: Some photos courtesy of Hometown Hockey. For more information on the initiative, and to follow them across Canada, check out their Facebook Page. Catch them in Hamilton April 8th-10th!