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Hockey has given Bob Mann many fond memories.
There’s no doubt events this weekend will be at the top that list for the Kensington native.
Now 62, Mann will experience the Kensington, P.E.I.-Bedford, Que., Peewee Friendship Hockey Exchange again. This time with his grandson, Ben Rogers.
“It’s really special just because my grampy played on the first (Kensington) team to go and I am going in the 52nd year," said Ben, who plays left wing and is a Grade 7 student at Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School. “It’s really exciting.”
The Bedford contingent arrived in Kensington on Friday afternoon and a full slate of events is planned through to Sunday, including three hockey games on Saturday featuring the Kensington exchange team, Kensington peewee A squad and Bedford.
“Hockey is a great sport,” said Mann, who now lives in Dartmouth, N.S. “I just hope the kids embrace it and enjoy themselves.”
Mann has many fond memories from the inaugural exchange during the 1968-69 season.
“It was my first train ride anywhere and for a lot of guys it was kind of special,” recalled Mann. “There was not a whole lot of sleep involved. Everybody was up most of the night because they were never on a train before. We were trading hockey cards and everything else.”
Mann says two of his biggest memories were attending Bedford’s winter carnival, which was held in conjunction with the exchange, and the large crowds that attended the games.
“Back 50 years ago, I guess there was nothing else to do and I remember playing on an outdoor rink before a big crowd in (nearby) Philipsburg, Que.,” said Mann. “That was the last time I played on an outdoor rink.”
There were other highlights, including a trip to one of hockey’s most famous arenas.
“We got to go to the Montreal Forum and meet the Montreal Canadiens and (goaltender) Gump Worsley for one,” said Mann. “You have the friendships over the years, (with people from Bedford like) Scott Jones, Ricky Callaghan, Brian Sornberger and you can go on and on and on.”
One major change over the years is the level of competitiveness. Mann recalls it being very competitive featuring all-star teams in the early years. Now every peewee-aged child in the Kensington minor hockey program has the opportunity to participate.
“Back then it was a big thing to play a team from Quebec and the rink was packed,” recalled Mann, who will also make the trip to Bedford for the second half of the exchange in late February. “It was competitive hockey.”
Asked what he is looking forward to the most this weekend, Ben, the 12-year-old son of Mark and Angela (Mann) Rogers, answered, “Just having fun, meeting my billet and going to the NHL game with all my friends.”
Just like his grandfather 52 years ago, Ben and his exchange squad teammates will have a chance to watch the Montreal Canadiens. The Kensington contingent travelling to Bedford, which is located 86 kilometres southeast of Montreal, will take in the Canadiens’ game versus the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre on Feb. 27.
“Having the chance to watch an NHL game with Ben, Angela and Mark, I can take that off my bucket list,” said Mann, who quickly pointed out Ben cheers for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mann has been no stranger to the exchange and has participated in the 10-, 25- and 35-year alumni games.
“You get to see all the old guys again and it brings back some memories,” said Mann, who admits he never envisioned the exchange lasting as long as it has.
“Nobody did,” he added. “I don’t think anybody could have foreseen that.”
Along with having fun, Mann urges the participants to enjoy every aspect of the weekend that he noted will provide many life-long memories.
“What more can you say?” said Mann. “Hockey has put a lot of friendships in everybody’s life.
“It’s a good thing and there are a lot of kids out there who are not getting this opportunity.”
Saturday’s Kensington-Bedford Peewee Friendship Hockey Exchange schedule:
10:20 a.m. – Kensington peewee A team vs. Bedford.
4:20 p.m. – Kensington peewee A team vs. Kensington Exchange team.
5:30 p.m. – Opening ceremonies.
5:50 p.m. – Kensington exchange team vs. Bedford.
Note: All games at Credit Union Centre.