There was a marvelous buzz about the arena. There was the action on the ice. There were buses loading and unloading teams. Kids would finish a game and then go to the stands to cheer on others, while above them those waiting to play would be jogging around the inside perimeter, and parents and friends racing back and forth between games. Cameras were flashing. Hopes were crushed. Dreams fulfilled. Pucks were flying all over the place. Buzzers sounding. Hockey sticks being slapped against the boards. The atmosphere crackled. The building just vibrated.
The drama on the ice was palpable. I watched one game between the Northwood and Abbott girl’s teams. For the first 10 minutes it was as if the Northwood girls hadn’t quite gotten out of bed yet, except their goalie who was hard pressed from the opening bell, and then it was like, “Oh My God,” we are in a hockey game and then both teams got really serious with at times so many in the penalty box it was a wonder that there was anyone left on the ice to hit the puck. Meanwhile over in the USA rink, the National Sports Academy Junior Team – a team that hates to lose, had their hands full with a hard playing team from New Jersey, I mean really hard playing. I thought for a moment Gunn Rand was going to jump in and throttle a ref or, at the very least, recommend he get his eye glasses prescription updated.
“How does it feel to watch you son out on the ice?” I asked Karen Town, planted in the stands behind the goal.
“Lots of different things,” she said. “It is horrifying. I am really proud of him. I am hoping he hasn’t forgotten a piece of equipment. I wonder what is going through his mind when he is playing. I worry about what he might be worrying about. I like to see him deal with power plays in difficult situations because he is so good at that. I am happy that he is here. When I see him out there on the ice it all comes together. Coming out here it is like I am meeting this whole different person. He’s grown up. When we first came here, Ed Good (Northwood’s headmaster) told me and the other parents that when we next see them we will see some changes. He was right.”
“What does this weekend, this event mean to you?” I asked Northwood hockey coach Michael Corbelle.
“It is a great tradition. It means a lot that these teams are willing to come, some all the way from California and different parts of Canada – from all over North America. It is definitely a source of pride for the teams to be invited and to play here in front of lots of fans with some really good competition and in this arena.”
“What’s with the haircuts?”
“The players made a decision last week to wear mullets and Mohawks, a popular ‘80s hockey player haircut. They are a very close-knit group. They live in the dorms together, eat together, go to class together, train together. It shows how much they are willing to support each other.”
“It is an honor to be here,” said Hayden Town, a few minutes after the game (his team won). “Being a part of this team is the best experience you can have anywhere. Being in the Olympic Arena is really cool. Coming to Northwood is exactly what I wanted. It is a perfect situation for me.”
“Ed Good told your mother that when she next saw you, that you will have changed, that you will speak it complete sentences.”
Laughing he said, “He was right. Northwood taught me how to think.”
“When we were at Northwood we had to first play with the boys at lot of the time, which was good because it made us better hockey players,” said alum Reilly Stanton.
“It was fun. It made you a stronger person, plus you got to be coached by Brodie, which was the best thing about it,” said Shauna Donnelly. “If you don’t know how strong you are you will after he gets a hold of you. He pushes you to the limits, summersaults on the ice, that was my favorite.”
“It was intense. It was nerve wracking,” said Lauren Usherwood after the Abbott-Northwood game. “We had to win to move on.”
“She played a hell of a game, she covered the net so well,” said Northwood girls coach Erin Farmer. “We are the hosts. It was important to win because it is the tenth year of girl’s hockey at Northwood.
“Wait, she was the goalie! How is that possible she is so small? How did you do it? Pucks were flying at you right off the bat,” I said.
“I was really, really nervous for the first few minutes, but I was confident that my team would help me out and they did,” said Lauren. “I thought the last three minutes was going to be the hardest three minutes of my life.”
“She covered the goal well. She knows how to make herself big,” said coach Farmer.
“There are great teams here,” said Abbott Head Coach Hank Binning, based in Sainte Anne de Belleview, Quebec. “The competition is great. This is a perfect time of year just back from the holidays. You can’t ask for a better location. What a place to play hockey. I was surprised by the level of competition. It was better than I expected. We are definitely interested in coming back next year.”
Women alums and Northwood Girls team