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What does hockey mean to the Coast?

As I sit at home today with the excitement, and maybe a lot of tiredness from the lack of coffee and sugar that kept me jiving all weekend now returning to normalcy, I am thinking of the hockey event that I just experienced in St. Paul's River. The memories are still raw in my mind, I really feel like I had just stepped back to the roots of who we are as Coasters.

Growing up on the coast, we are no stranger to outdoor hockey events, most of those rinks are long gone now and our beautiful modern arenas replace them. But going back to the outdoor rink in St. Paul's this weekend was an experience I am sure to never forget. On Friday around 11am when CFBS arrived to set up, the weather was poor, but not bad enough entirely to call the weekend off. Everyone eagerly awaited from communities east to west to see if mother nature would be kind, as in tournaments of days gone by, it really is out of anyone's hands what the weather does. Still, the people of St. Paul's River were on the go in preparation on that stormy February day for the weekend ahead.

The rink door opens, and a smiling guy on a 4 wheeler (quad) shows up with a plough on the front. He is now whipping around the rink, but frustratingly not making much headway, the snow is too much. And as if the call to duty went out, 5 minutes later it was all hands on deck ..... another quad ...... and a side by side with a plough ...... now a snowblower and approximately 15 men with shovels all report to the rink, what an operation! They make quick on the clean up, just as the snowy weather starts to slack a bit, looks like mother nature is going to give her approval to the 2023 St. Paul's River competitive hockey weekend.

The set up at the St. Paul's rink was one that hockey announcers of years gone by had known as normality. A booth built above the players dressing rooms, a woodstove below to keep the building warm, with a steep ladder to climb, and small booth above to make the magic happen for those who cannot come in person to see our hockey heros play this great Canadian game! I felt the excitement in that booth all weekend, from watching the teams we know and love battle it out below. The voices of today's talented hockey announcers that CFBS was lucky to have join us for this special broadcast weekend. Keathon Monger and Ryan Flynn, both who play hockey respectively for the St. Augustine Devils and the Blanc-Sablon Chiefs, were in the booth this weekend along with an old time favorite announcer known locally as Dave the Sportsman Jones, as well as my coworker Ian Letemplier who covered the final games on Sunday! I had the pleasure of watching the broadcast magic happen in that booth, they called the hockey as best they saw it, we laughed, we cheered the teams on the ice below, and we grumbled about the heat of that dang wood stove. It was really something. And when the heat was too much, a live radio call to the good people of St. Paul's for a cool air fan was answered quickly by 3 people offering to help, and a much appreciated fan became an addition to our little radio world for the rest of the weekend. The window froze up, we cleared it, you roll with it when you have to, everyone has a role to play.

So much goes into a town hosting a weekend tournament, anyone who has worked on a sports committee can tell you of the hours they put in. It is done out of love, people wanting to show their communities and visitors what their town has to offer. The good people of St. Paul's did not disappoint, there was not one face that wasn't smiling wherever you went; the door crew in the hall, the canteen, the bar, the sports committee workers, volunteers around the rink, the hosting Bonne-Esperance Kings players, local businesses that you stop into ...... all welcoming, all amazing!

And of course there was the hockey! I was bursting with pride of our region in watching these teams play, each game we witnessed had its special memories, each player doing their best for the cheers of the fans standing around the rink, in the snow, in the cold, in the wind. It didn't matter, this is who we are, we don't let little things stop us like minus 30 plus with the windchill, we are tough! Hockey players faces beaten red with the cold, fans banging their feet and hands together to stay warm.

It was so nice to see the dedication that each team put into this weekend, the Kings getting things ready, the teams from L'Anse au Loup and Blanc-Sablon driving the blustery highland highway in the not so great weather on Friday to arrive in St. Paul's, and the very same to be said about the teams from St. Augustine and Pakuashipi who braved the bumpy trail by snowmobile to keep their word in showing up. You really are stand up people, you all played hard, and it was amazing to watch, it was a pleasure for our radio team to share it with the listening world, there was a bit of nostalgic magic in and around that rink of what makes us unique in this neck of the woods!

Thank you to the St. Paul's community and volunteers for your hospitality, thank you to the 7 teams of the weekend who gave us a great show, I know not everyone can win, that is hockey, but we saw something great in all of you! Thank you to the fans who were so great cheering in the cold, thank you to our announcers Keathon, Ryan, Dave, and Ian, my manager Janice and my fellow coworkers at CFBS who as a team are slaying the hockey coverage this year because we care about our little community radio station, to the sponsors of course who made it all happen!

We can't wait to bring hockey into your homes again, near and far, on Feb 24th to Feb 26th during the local competitive tournament in Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon on CFBS Radio, we hope you'll join us again!




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