KENSINGTON – The Don Johnson Memorial Cup is returning to the arena that hosted the very first Atlantic junior B hockey championship.
Hockey P.E.I. announced Thursday afternoon that the Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers will host the 2019 tournament at newly-named Credit Union Centre from April 23 to 28.
“We are very excited,” said Vipers general manager Pat McIver. “We haven’t been there in a couple of years, so we have that burning desire to get back to the Don Johnson Memorial Cup. Obviously, we want to go in the front door, but it is a great opportunity with it coming back to P.E.I.
“We haven’t hosted it since 2006, and we think we are ready to put on a great event.”
Along with the host Vipers, the tournament will include representatives from the Island Junior Hockey League, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The teams will play a 10-game round-robin schedule, followed by two semifinals and the final. The semifinals will feature the first-place team taking on the fourth-place team, and the second- and third-place squads clashing.
Previously known as the Don Johnson Cup, the tournament was renamed the Don Johnson Memorial Cup in 2013 following Johnson’s passing in 2012.
The first-ever Don Johnson Cup was held at the former Community Gardens in 1982, with Newfoundland and Labrador’s St. John’s Celtics defeating the host Kensington Bombers 5-3 in the final played before 900 fans. Johnson presented the inaugural Don Johnson Cup to his son, Mike, an assistant captain of the Celtics.
The late Robert K. Cousins, a longtime supporter of junior B and juvenile hockey in Kensington, was the driving force behind the championship. Cousins also ran the Kensington team that hosted in 1986.
“Robert started it all,” Johnson told the Journal Pioneer at the 2011 tournament in Montague.
McIver said organizers are looking to honour the tournament’s “rich history” in Kensington, which is hosting the championship for the fourth time.
“If you go back as far as the original one, there is a lot of alumni out there,” said McIver, who feels it will be a well-attended and supported event. “Whether it’s the Vipers, Bombers or whoever, there are a lot of alumni junior B players who came through Kensington.”
With the Vipers attending 12 of the past 15 regional championships, the Vipers got to know Johnson very well over the years.
“We are looking forward to putting on a good event in his honour,” added McIver. “Kensington has a great track record of hosting. Just look at the major midget Atlantics in 2015, they just filled the building and the volunteers were there in droves. We are hoping for a lot of the same.”
Johnson was president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from 1975 to 79, and has been an honoured life member of Hockey Canada since 1982.
Among Johnson’s accomplishments include serving as chairman of the 1978 International Ice Hockey Federation world junior championship in Montreal. This was the first world juniors to be held in Canada.
Johnson was a life member of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, Softball Newfoundland and Labrador and Sport Newfoundland and Labrador. He is in the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada Games Council Hall of Honour.
The Vipers will open training camp in Kensington on Sept. 13.