CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Summerside’s Kent Paynter likes to think he helped pave the way for major junior hockey in Charlottetown.
The 53-year-old former AHL/NHL forward served as captain of the 1993-94 P.E.I. Senators, Ottawa’s minor league affiliate that lasted another two seasons in Charlottetown.
Those Senators will be honoured tonight at Eastlink Centre when the Charlottetown Islanders host the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) action. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Islanders will wear Senators jerseys and former P.E.I. Senators Darcy Simon and Norm Batherson will be in attendance. Paynter, however, had previous commitments when the Islanders reached out to him.
“I think it’s nice for them to step up and do something like that,’’ Paynter said. “Major junior wouldn’t have ended up here if pro hockey hadn’t ended up here. It was probably the jolt from those first three years that got the fanbase craving more, which made people think major junior would work here in P.E.I. I think major junior is probably a better fit in P.E.I.’’
The Senators weren’t very good that first year, sporting a 23-49-8 record, but Paynter loved playing at home and bringing a whole other level of hockey to the province.
“It was something most people hadn’t had a chance to see, on a regular basis anyway. The majority of people that I spoke with were astonished at how good the hockey really was.’’
Paynter only played one season for the AHL team in Charlottetown. He had signed a two-year contract with Ottawa, playing his first year in New Haven where the AHL team was prior to its move to the P.E.I. capital. Paynter left after he and the team couldn’t agree on a new contract to keep him on home soil.
Instead, Paynter went to play for Island native Don MacAdam and the Milwaukee Admirals of the now defunct International Hockey League.
“I planned on coming back and finishing (my career in Charlottetown) but it didn’t work out that way. Ottawa and I had a different opinion.’’
He and his wife even bought a home in Charlottetown with plans to stay.
Still, he’ll always cherish the memories of playing one season of pro hockey in Charlottetown.
“It was a thrill to play at home. It was home every night, home crowd, lots of people around that I knew, lots of family and friends at the games so that part of the game was a thrill.’’
Paynter said he considers everyone who played on the Senators that first year a friend, but it’s hard to keep in touch.
“We were always spread out. Even Darcy . . . Darcy and I were good friends but I haven’t seen Darcy in years and he’s only in Fredericton (but) you run into each other at golf tournaments or something like that.’’
Paynter said he wishes he could be there tonight as the celebration rekindles a lot of great memories.
“I was pleasantly surprised,’’ he said, referring to being informed the Senators were being recognized at the QMJHL game. “I would have liked to have been at this. It would have been nice.’’
Kent Paynter’s statistics from 1990-91 on:
Season Team GP G A Pts
1990-91 - Baltimore Skipjacks (AHL) 43 10 17 27
1990-91 - Washington Capitals (NHL) 1 0 0 0
1991-92 - Winnipeg Jets (NHL) 5 0 0 0
1991-92 - Moncton Hawks (AHL) 62 3 30 33
1992-93 - New Haven Senators (AHL) 48 7 17 24
1992-93 - Ottawa Senators (NHL) 6 0 0 0
1993-94 - Ottawa Senators (NHL) 9 0 1 1
1993-94 - P.E.I. Senators (AHL) 63 6 20 26
1994-95 - Milwaukee Admirals (IHL) 73 3 22 25
1995-96 - Milwaukee Admirals (IHL) 79 9 19 28
1997-98 - Milwaukee Admirals (IHL) 77 10 28 38
1997-98 - Indianapolis Ice (IHL) 37 3 7 10
Season Team GP W L T OTL
Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) 48 5 38 2 3