By Drake Lowthers
Feb. 23, 2015
Canada’s national sport was placed on display as a part of a free, fun-filled weekend when the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour visited Charlottetown the weekend of Jan. 17-18.
This festival of hockey occupied Confederation Landing for two bone-chilling cold days of live entertainment, prize giveaways, autograph guests, an interactive Sportsnet broadcast simulator, Xbox One gaming tents, complimentary McCafe products and, of course, hockey.
The weekend was highlighted by the broadcast of a regular season National Hockey League game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets from a mobile studio in Charlottetown, which was hosted by Ron MacLean.
Each week of the 2014-2015 NHL season the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour will roll into a new community across Canada to showcase their free outdoor hockey festival.
Charlottetown was community 15 along the 25-community tour across Canada.
The passion for hockey in this country is unrivaled. Every Canadian has a connection to the game – it is part of our DNA, it is part of our communities, MacLean said in a prior interview.
“We’re excited to share in this season-long celebration of Canada’s favourite pastime, help grow the game and bring to life those great hockey stories every Sunday.”
Rob Newson, Executive Director of Hockey P.E.I. said it is quite evident hockey is a passion to the majority of Islanders.
“Every community is built around a school, a church and a rink.”
Newson said an event like Rogers Hometown Hockey is a great opportunity to bring in a national audience to expose hockey at the local level.
“It is an excellent opportunity to share all the positives within the game since there has been too much focus on the negatives.”
Plus, the public relation is always a good thing, Newson said.
According to last years’ statistics, Hockey P.E.I. had 4,900 registered players, 1,100 of them female.
In the past few years Hockey P.E.I. has seen a small decrease with registered participants, unlike seven to eight years ago when there was a spike in participants.
A major contributor to the decrease in participants would be economics, Newson said.
“It becomes a challenge. People move out of province for work and unfortunately rural communities take a hit.”
Even with the recent decrease of participants, P.E.I. has the highest involvement rate in Canada. P.E.I.’s 18 per cent of kids involved in minor hockey is substantially higher than the national average of 10 per cent, Newson said.
“We have led the country in minor hockey players per capita. Something we value as being the smallest province in Canada.”
Graeme Townshend, a Jamaican born, retired NHL player was on hand to sign autographs.
Townshend moved to Toronto when he was three-years-old and hockey came naturally for him.
“Growing up in Toronto if you wanted to play with other kids, you had to play hockey because everyone was playing. I just fell in love with the game.”
Growing up in Toronto gave him tremendous opportunities, Townshend said.
“I was very fortunate to have grown up in that city. There was hockey for every level, so I was able to find my level and eventually move on in the game.”
Townshend involved himself with Rogers Hometown Hockey because he loves giving back to the community.
“My whole career I dedicated my spare time to community based efforts so this is something that just fits in to what I like to do.”
Townshend said his familiarity to the province was the reason why he appeared in Charlottetown.
Townshend scored 29 points in 56 games during the 1993-94 season for the Ottawa Senators farm team Prince Edward Island Senators in the American Hockey League.