Young fans got to sit in the stands this morning, as the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils hit the ice for a pre-game skate in Summerside, P.E.I.
The NHL teams are on the Island for Hockeyville celebrations in O'Leary and Summerside.
The Sens were skating at 10:30, with the Devils hitting the ice for a skate at 11:30 a.m. Through the afternoon, a number of community events will be taking place before the big game.
The teams will play their pre-season game at Credit Union Place Monday night at 7 p.m., and the players got a red-carpet arrival to the arena this morning.
People started gathering behind the barriers at about 7:30 a.m. It's also a big day for students from West Prince. The nine schools in the region will be empty Monday, with 42 busloads of students and staff heading to Summerside to watch the game day practice.
Sens defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who summers on P.E.I. and visited O'Leary earlier this summer for Hockeyville, says his team visited his Island home Sunday night.
"It was fun. It's something that's really special because you don't get to have your whole team usually where you spend the summer, you're not able to have everyone over, so it was special to me," he told reporters after the morning Sens skate.
The community has a passion for hockey, Phaneuf added, and he's proud to say his family is from the Island.
"I'm really happy that O'Leary was able to win Kraft Hockeyville, I think it's very derserving," he said.
"It's about giving back to these communities that are so passionate about the game all across the country, not just P.E.I. But to have it on Prince Edward Island is pretty special."
Phaneuf said he knows Hockeyville "means a lot to Prince Edward Island," and since he'll have loads of friends and family in the stands, he knows the game "better be good."
The events in O'Leary, this year's Hockeyville winner, included skills sessions, community skates, and an outdoor fair on Sunday.
"Favourite part was just seeing all the faces come out yesterday — community, friends, family, neighbours, strangers — just coming out and enjoying the day and getting lost in the celebrations," said O'Leary Hockeyville committee member Dean Getson.
Years in the making
O'Leary has been chasing a Hockeyville win since 2006, Getson said.
When the teams go home, the work will enter a new phase, he said, with the committee looking for ways to leverage the $100,000 for renovations at the local arena that came with the Hockeyville victory.
"One thing that we've come to realize with the renovations projects is that $100,000 is a lot of money until you start renovating," he said.
Completing the wish list of projects, which includes making the arena more accessible and a new condenser for the icemaker, will likely cost $200,000 to $300,000.
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