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Prince Edward Island

October 30th, 2011

One of the great things about this trip is that I’ve been able to visit places that I didn’t know existed.  For example, before the trip, I was at best only vaguely aware of Prince Edward Island, but now not only do I know where it is, I can say I’ve been there!

They love three things in PEI: potatoes, the Confederation Bridge, and hockey.

The view from the driver's seat as I drove towards PEI on the Confederation Bridge. Hockey lay yonder!

I couldn’t believe how much hockey was in PEI.  Recall that it’s just a bit larger than Rhode Island in land area and has the population of a mid-sized suburb: 140,000 souls.  It’s remarkable, then, that almost 6% of the island residents are registered with the provincial hockey governing body, Hockey PEI.  Only 1% of Minnesotans are registered with the equivalent organization.

Consider, too, that there are 27 rinks in PEI, which works out to be the highest rinks-per-capita of any province.  That’s even higher than the rinks-per-capita value of Blaine, MN, which boasts 10 indoor sheets and a population of 57,000.

I’m not sure if I would have had trouble finding a game on the island, but fortunately, Wes did the legwork for me.  He very enthusiastically commented on my blog about hockey in PEI, and then he emailed me before I had a chance to respond to his comment.  He’d find me a game, he assured me, and he came through.

Wes normally organized his own pickup hockey group, but they weren’t going to be playing while I was in town, so he sent out feelers to his friends and their friends for other pickups and league games.  That’s how he came upon a team needing a goalie the first night I would be in town.

When I got to the rink, I found that not only was the team short a goalie, they were in need of more players in general.  There was much celebration when the sixth skater walked in about 15 minutes before the game, thus giving us a token sub on the bench.

Wes was at the rink to meet me in person, and when he saw how sparse the dressing room was, he casually offered to suit up and help with the effort; he had his gear with him in his car trunk.  I guess in Canada you never know when a hockey game is going to break out.  His proposal was gladly accepted.

Despite the numerous blank lines on the game roster, the skaters were in high spirits in the locker room, and it wasn’t just the beer.  The ages of the group ranged from mid-20s to early 40s, and the way the guys talked and skated implied extensive previous hockey experience. A couple guys worked in construction, and at least two more were farmers.  Wes and I were outliers of sorts, with our university degrees and white-collar jobs, but we all got along with the rest of the team regardless.  Whenever I couldn’t understand what one of the guys was saying — we were getting towards Newfoundland, after all, I’d just smile and laugh along, and that seemed to do the trick.

We started the game strong, but after about 20 minutes we (or at least I) started to run out of steam.  A few more players for our side showed up during the game.   Sadly,  it wasn’t enough. We fell to our opponents.  They were as gracious in victory as we were in defeat.

Group photo after the game in PEI. Wes is to the left of me (my right).

The young ref who took the post-game group photo skated up to me as I was collecting my water bottle from the net.  He was lanky and a bit shorter than me, and he couldn’t have been older than 16.

“You’re on some sort of trip?” he asked.

“Yup, I’m from Minnesota and I’m traveling to every state and province to play hockey,” I replied.

“Wow.  Sign me up!  What did you think of the hockey here?”

“Well, if you guys grow potatoes as well as you play hockey, then Idaho has a lot to be worried about.”

He gave me a confused look, laughed, wished me luck, and skated away.  Note to self: international commerce jokes best avoided during small-talk on the ice.

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