Of all the stops across Canada made by Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour, Whitehorse was the hardest to leave, said Sportsnet/CBC sportscaster Ron MacLean.
“We did a little bit of a staff party yesterday. The folks who put on this whole festival … they go to all these stops along the way and this is the one they don’t want to leave,” said MacLean. “People really are sad we have to pull out tomorrow. That’s the first time that’s happened. In the two years we’ve done the show, the crew has never wanted to stay. That’s the ultimate compliment.”
(Take that, Sarnia, Ont.)
Yukoners came out in scores to celebrate all things hockey over the weekend on Whitehorse’s Front Street. There was ball hockey, table hockey, videogame hockey. Former NHLers Darcy Tucker and Geoff Sanderson hobnobbed in the crowd. A minor hockey team got their photo with the Stanley Cup. Kids got free memorial jerseys.
The two-day hockey celebration ended Sunday with a live viewing party of a Carolina Hurricanes-Calgary Flames game hosted MacLean. Whitehorse fans watched Coach’s Corner happen right in front of them!
It was a slice of heaven for any hockey fan.
For MacLean, who lived in the Whitehorse community of Hillcrest from age four to eight in the mid ‘60s, it was a trip down memory lane.
MacLean played his first hockey in Whitehorse as a boy and last week returned to the very same rink in Hillcrest he first put stick to puck for a bit of shinny with youngsters.
“It was really hard to believe it was 50 years ago I was skating on that very same patch of ice,” said MacLean.
The nostalgia continued …
“The two teachers I had a Christ the King Elementary – Clare MacKenzie Stark was out yesterday, and today Marcella Brown, who was Mrs. Rosen when I was in Grade 1 – were both here,” added MacLean. “It was incredible to see them.
“Then I went to Takhini arena … and saw the Huskies and the team from Powell River last night. They wanted to meet (Sportsnet host) Tara (Slone), they didn’t want to meet me. I talked them into meeting me. I had a great visit with them and that brought back vivid memories.”
“He’s exactly the same kid he was in Grade 2,” said Stark. “He was just precious then and he’s just precious now.”
Tucker had never been to the territory, but has his own Yukon connection. Tucker, who played 14 seasons in the NHL – eight with the Toronto Maple Leafs – won two Memorial Cups with Yukon’s Jarrett Deuling on the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL during the early ‘90s.
“I enjoy meeting and talking to different people and interesting individuals. That’s what this tour is all about: learning more about the communities and especially about minor hockey communities,” said Tucker. “This one has some good minor hockey behind it. I played with Jarrett Deuling in Kamloops as a Blazer and he grew up in this neck of the woods and played minor hockey up here. It’s been interesting learning about that.”
“Thanks for the hospitality, we’ve all enjoyed ourselves and I’d be back here any day,” he added.
Scotiabank, a co-sponsor of the event, donated $15,000 to the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association. There were also boxes of memorial jerseys left over – about 400 – that will be distributed to the communities.
“It’s like, wow! What else can you say,” said Russ Smoler, president of Hockey Yukon. “Rogers has been outstanding – so has Scotiabank and Dodge – to put on a show like this for hockey and for the community has been great.”
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