KENSINGTON – It was a night to remember for anyone who has been associated with the Kensington, P.E.I.-Bedford, Que., Peewee Friendship Hockey Exchange.
The first half of the exchange’s 50th year was celebrated before a good crowd at Community Gardens on Saturday. The Kensington contingent makes the return trip to Quebec in February.
“It’s been lots of fun,” said Kensington forward Tyson McCardle of Kinkora. “The experience is great.”
The fact this was a milestone year was not lost on this year’s peewee players.
“I was really happy to be in the 50th,” added Bedford team captain Andy Coupal.
Bedford arrived in Kensington on Friday afternoon, and a sold-out welcome banquet was held at the New London Community Complex that evening. A highlight of the evening was a play honouring four of the original organizers of the exchange – Alec Chessman, Eric Jessome, Raeburn Orr and Eric Jones – recalling memories of the exchange in hockey heaven.
“The exchange started a powerful relationship between two communities,” said Michel (Farmer) Paquette, who is attending his 30th exchange and is in his 28th year coaching a Bedford team.
A jamboree-style tournament was held during the day on Saturday, but the highlight of the weekend was the Kensington and Bedford game that evening. The entertaining contest ended in a 5-5 tie.
“It was a good game, and it is about the friendship,” said Kensington goaltender Kale Hunter of Indian River. “It’s been fun hanging out with my billet (Zachary Grenier), and taking in the experience.”
The Kensington-Bedford game followed the on-ice opening ceremony, which included original team members and organizers from both communities for the inaugural year in 1969.
No exchange was held in 1970 as the Community Gardens’s Paperweight All-Stars travelled to Toronto. The peewee exchange with Bedford resumed in 1971, and has been held every year since.
A friendship game and parade of alumni from Kensington Town Hall to Community Gardens highlighted Sunday’s schedule.
“It was fun,” said Kensington left-winger Trinity Somers of Borden-Carleton in describing her experience while adding she enjoyed “meeting a whole lot of new people.”
Kensington centre Kristyn Taylor of Travellers Rest said she has lots of memorable moments from the three-day event.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting the people from Bedford,” said Taylor. “I’ve enjoyed playing against them and with them.”
Emaly Ann Paquette, a blue-liner with Bedford, is also returning home with many memories.
“Meeting (her billets) Kristyn and Trinity, and having fun count as my favourites,” she said.
When asked what were some of those fun things, a smiling Emaly Ann replied, “We have made slime, and stayed up late.”
Emaly Ann, however, may have provided the perfect summary for this exchange when she offered, “Hockey is my favourite sport, and it’s not important to win . . . but to have fun!”