Age has diminished my driving. For years and years, sports trips put a monthly average of 3,000 kilometres on my cars. Since leasing my latest Camry in 2015, the figure has dropped to just under 700 a month.
Yet during the weekend before Halloween, I added 660 — two round-trips between Dartmouth and New Glasgow. It included driving in early morning darkness, some sections in thick fog. It included slippery patches after a slight overnight snow. One return trip had an hour-and-a-half standstill at an accident scene.
But every kilometre was worth it.
My destination both days was a hockey tournament at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. And what I got for my $5 pass was the best minor hockey entertainment I’ve had in a long time.
It wasn’t games featuring older players that brought me there. It was competition involving nine- and 10-year-olds. The only males on the ice were the officials.
Yes, I was there to see atom AA girls participating at the seventh annual Subway Cup.
In all, there were five atom teams, six peewee teams, 11 bantam clubs and 11 midget squads. There were 550 players on 33 rosters. With 63 games, matches were played at the Wellness Centre and the Hector Arena in Pictou.
And it was all girls.
From the opening faceoffs to the final plays of the games I came to see, I made sure I didn’t miss a single pass, a single shot.
It was great action.
There was a reason I was in attendance at the first game on what was a busy time featuring atom, peewee, bantam and midget teams from across the Maritimes.
My nine-year-old granddaughter Anna plays right wing on the Metro East Inferno.
There was another objective to get to the opener. Retired school teacher Dave Scott — one of my best friends on this planet — has a granddaughter, Evelyn, on the host Subway Selects.
Like a perfect movie script, Anna’s and Evelyn’s teams were facing one another for the first time in their young careers. For the grandfathers, it was almost a wee Stanley Cup showdown.
Dave, a retired teacher, was born at the old Aberdeen Hospital off Stellarton Road the same day my sister Barbara arrived. They were roommates the first couple nights of their lives. Dave and I could almost be called relatives of some sort.
He and I have been opponents in hockey for something like 60 years — first while making small wagers on our favourite hockey and baseball teams, then for the last 20 or so years, we’ve been managing our rosters in fantasy leagues. Talk about rivalries!
Anyway, back to the Subway Cup.
The matchup couldn’t have been better for the two grandfathers — and grandmother Kathy Scott — as the puck dropped.
The welcome message to the participants and fans in the tournament program couldn’t have been better worded: “Play hard and have fun.”
That’s exactly what the girls did.
Every shift, every play, they showed they were having fun. And play hard? They couldn’t have played any harder, regardless of age.
That so-called Townsend-Scott showdown was filled with exciting plays. There were plenty of good scoring chances but it was 0-0 after the first period, 0-0 after the second, and still scoreless well into the third.
Then Anna made a rush, crossed in front of the net and put the winning goal into the twines. A happy Dartmouth grandfather, silenced at sports events during 65 years in press boxes, actually let out a holler.
I went home happy.
I had no plans to come back. Too much driving. But Anna’s folks, like the other parents and siblings on the Dartmouth-based team, were there for the whole show.
Sometimes plans change. The Inferno went undefeated and reached the atom championship game against a second place club from P.E.I.
I was back on the road Sunday at 6 a.m.
So what happened? The final went scoreless through regulation. That meant 3-on-3 overtime. The extra session went less than a minute before Anna and her teammates got the needed tally.
The well-known victory song “We Are the Champions” boomed over the loud speaker and the championship trophy was presented to team captain Mya MacCormick.
Gold medals went to members of the Mike Cutcliffe-coached team: Madison MacMillan, Mya MacCormick, Paige Andrews, twins Rowan and Riley Cutcliffe, Ida Tollefsen, Lyla Boychuk, Sophie Cormier, Molly MacCarthy, Sadie Walter, Gabrielle LaPierre, Grace Estabrooks, Lacey Poirier, Marin MacNeil, Madison Malcolm, Lily Williams and, yes, Anna Townsend.
Evelyn and her local Subway Selects?
The Keith Guitard-coached club representing the hometown was capably represented by Chelsea Boyle, Samantha Guitard, Kaylee Hollis, Bailee Kontuk, Ashtyn MacHattie, Lexi MacIntyre, Evelyn MacLeod, Molly Marchand, Ada Martin, Lydia Mason, Addison Smith, Madelyn Spence, Rogan Vint, Allison Webster and, of course, Evelyn Scott.
The locals demonstrated the closeness of the atom division. Finishing third, they missed the title game with the Inferno by a single point. A break here or there and they could very easily have reached the championship contest.
During round-robin play, the two granddaughters, Anna and Evelyn, were awarded game MVP awards.
The rivalry is getting interesting.
I’ve been to many minor hockey events across the province and, to be objective, I can’t remember any that were better organized. It made me feel good about my old hometown. As I drove home, I had nothing but good thoughts on my mind.
The event was a clear example of how much girls hockey has improved, in Nova Scotia as elsewhere.
I think back to my Pictou County working years in the 1950s and ’60s. I may be mistaken, but I can’t remember any girls playing hockey then.
When our daughter was growing up in Cole Harbour with two hockey-playing brothers, she was in ringette because girls hockey hadn’t yet become a viable alternative.
Now girls hockey is everywhere. And, boy, how they’re embracing the sport.