Anticipation filled the air at the CARI Complex in Charlottetown on Saturday, Sept. 15.
The children could hardly contain their excitement as a fresh sheet of ice awaited them.
“Close the Zamboni doors already!” said one player.
“He’s too slow!” cried another.
Once those doors closed, another door opened.
Approximately 30 children from across Prince Edward Island were selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s Dreams Come True program, which was held in association with KidSport and Hockey PEI.
The program started in 2007, but this was its first visit to Charlottetown.
The clinics are funded by the Hockey Canada Foundation, and they aim to assist 90 kids across Canada throughout the hockey season.
The program featured two on-ice sessions, one for kids aged six to nine, and the other for kids aged 10 to 13.
For some of the kids involved, hockey runs in the family.
Seven-year-old Nate is the grandson of Forbes Kennedy, who played over 600 games for five NHL teams from 19.
Nate jumped for joy when he was chosen, said his mother, Stephanie.
“He has an older brother, so of course he’s the hand-me-down kid,” she said.
“He was so excited to be the one that was picked. He got to show off a little bit, so he was totally excited.”
The sense of elation and joy was echoed by other parents.
Andrea of Summerside said her 11-year-old daughter, Katie, was thrilled to be selected.
“We were actually in Charlottetown when we got the call from KidSport to say Katie was selected,” she said.
“To turn around to the back seat and see her face light up when I told her she had all new gear, it meant a lot. She couldn’t believe it, and I was so touched to know they picked us.”
While it’s not always easy to get kids involved with hockey, the Dreams Come True initiative encourages more participation, Andrea said.
“I think it’s wonderful because they’re encouraging more participants, it becomes more affordable, and it’s also a great event to have to encourage all Islanders to experience hockey,” she said.
“In today’s society, kids love to play hockey, but sometimes circumstances don’t permit, and it’s unfortunate.“With an event of this magnitude and calibre, it’s unreal.”
The program is a gift that keeps giving, said Mike White, technical coordinator for Hockey PEI.
“The gear should last them for a couple seasons, and the idea is once they outgrow it, they’ll donate it to KidSport so others can use it after them, so it keeps giving back year after year,” he said.
The kids were eager to get on the ice, White said.
“They love to get on the ice, especially this time of the year coming out of the summer. It’s the most exciting time of the year for a lot of these kids, that first time back on the ice,” he said.
“The kids just couldn’t wait for the Zamboni doors to close so they could get out there, get the pucks going and getting back to playing hockey again.”
Hockey Canada’s contribution to minor hockey is significant, White said.
“It means a lot for those 30 families, so for Hockey Canada, Bauer and the other sponsors to come forward and do that is a big bonus for hockey on P.E.I.”
Andrea said she seeing her daughter’s face light up when she received her new gear was priceless.
“I’d like to say thank you to Hockey Canada and KidSport, because it’s a touching thing they did,” she said.“They’re just phenomenal.”
Stephanie said her son was appreciative of the opportunity.
“Hockey is like a religion for him,” she said of Nate, who plays out of the Sherwood Parkdale Rural Minor Hockey Association.
“Anything to do with hockey, Nate loves it, so for him to get picked and to be with Hockey Canada, it’s a dream come true.”