P.E.I.'s population passed the 150,000 mark for the first time last year — much of that growth is due to government immigration policies.
But there's long been something much more romantic that kept people on P.E.I. — love.
'We slow-danced at Myron's later in the night — a classic Island love story.' — Kate Flick
In honour of Valentine's Day, here are the stories of a few people who came to the Island to play a sport, fell in love with an Islander and made P.E.I. their new home.
1. Jason and Kate (Myron) Flick
Jason and Kate met at an athletic banquet at UPEI, where they were named male and female athletes of 2002.
Jason Flick, from Sudbury, Ont., was a goalie for the Panthers hockey team, and Kate Myron, who grew up in York Point, P.E.I., played on the women's basketball team.
When they posed for a photo with their awards, Jason put his arm around her — putting the butterflies in motion.
"We slow-danced at Myron's later in the night — a classic Island love story," Kate says.
They got engaged in Kansas, where Jason played a year of minor-pro hockey after university, before settling back on P.E.I.
Jason is now a power line technician with Maritime Electric, and Kate is a teacher at Charlottetown Rural. They live in Emyvale with their two daughters.
2. Andy and Linda (Shaw) Packard
Linda, more of a creative type, admits she might have been a little skeptical when she found out the "good looking red-headed guy" who would often smile at her on the way to class was a "jock."
But 43 years of marriage later, it's clear she made the right choice when he asked her to dance at a Pig and Whistle at the UPEI Barn one fateful night in 1975.
"It turned out that this jock was a real gentleman and a genuine person who was fairly quiet and shy and someone who made me laugh with his dry sense of humour," she said.
Andy, from Presque Isle, Maine, also turned out to be one of UPEI's all-time best basketball players. He's a member of the school's Sports Hall of Fame, and its only basketball player to have his number retired.
Andy received his B.Sc. in organic chemistry in 1975 and worked in several labs before retiring. Linda was a teacher for 32 years, and now paints and teaches watercolours to adults.
They have two grown daughters and live in Linda's hometown of Brackley Beach, P.E.I.
3. John Brioux and Tracey Gairns Brioux
John was a little shy at first, Tracey says, so they spent a few years as friends before going on their first official date.
John grew up in the small town of Ennismore, Ont., and came to P.E.I. in 2001 to play hockey at UPEI. Tracey, from Warren Grove, P.E.I., was on the field hockey team.
They were introduced through a mutual friend, Kris MacPhee. They first met at the West River Bridge, where a group of friends had gathered to go bridge jumping. ("It was long time ago," Tracey stresses.)
They married in August 2007.
"It was hard for him to leave home because he is really close with his family but he did find P.E.I. was a lot like his home," Tracey says. "He really liked the small-town aspect and he did have his friends here from university."
John is a teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School in Charlottetown, and Tracey has a home-based online fitness business.
The live in Emyvale with their four children, next door to their old friends from university, Jason and Kate Flick.
4. Jan and Erin (Gallant) Klimes
Jan Klimes and Erin Gallant were a perfect match — literally — from the moment they met.
They were models at a fashion show in Summerside, P.E.I. — a fundraiser for Special Olympics P.E.I. — and walked the runway together wearing matching orange-and-blue jackets.
Jan, from the Czech Republic, had come to Summerside in 1996 to play junior hockey for the Western Capitals. The coach was Gerard (Turk) Gallant, who played on the Detroit Red Wings with Jan's cousin, Petr Klima. He lived with Gerard Gallant's family his first two years on P.E.I.
"They were like my second family after my arrival on P.E.I. and I always be grateful what they have done for me," Jan says.
In 1999, Jan and Erin got married at a "beautiful church on the water" in Mont Carmel, P.E.I., about an hour's drive from Erin's hometown of Piusville, P.E.I.
For the past 12 years they've lived in Stratford, where Jan is a team lead at CGI and Erin works part time and is a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters.
Jan he misses his family in the Czech Republic, but says he wouldn't change his life on P.E.I. for anything.
"I've always liked it here and my best friend, Erin, being from here it was a pretty easy decision."
5. Bob Gray and Earlene McKinnon-Gray
Bob hadn't even heard of P.E.I. when he was recruited straight out of a California high school in 1969 to play on UPEI's inaugural men's basketball team.
"I thought I was in Hudson's Bay," he says.
But he says it didn't take him long to realize exactly where he was — "heaven."
He scored UPEI's first ever point, and life only got better from there.
"I fell in love with the wonderful Earlene McKinnon of Springhill, P.E.I., and luckily it was mutual," Bob says.
They became teachers, had two sons and retired from the public school system in 2005. They continued to teach at UPEI, and Bob also helped coach the women's basketball team. Earlene retired in 2012, the year after she won an award for outstanding teaching. Bob retired from teaching and coaching in 2017.
They live in Charlottetown, and can still often be found at UPEI basketball games.
6. Craig and Jessica (Larter) Foster
Hockey player Craig Foster arrived late to the first day of summer English class at UPEI in 2005, and quickly made his way to back of the room.
Unimpressed, the professor, Anna Hopkins, refused to start the class until he moved to the empty desk up front.
So he gathered his books and moved to the front row — right in front of the woman who would eventually become his wife.
But Jessica Larter wasn't interested, at first.
"I wasn't able to get a date right away," Craig says. "But I was able to impress her by acing the assignments, tests and midterms and making sure she knew about it.
"It wasn't until early 2006, after running into each of consistently at the library and other social events, that she finally gave me a chance."
After graduation in 2008, they moved to Ottawa, near Craig's hometown of Carp, Ont. They "endured a long year of phone calls and Skype" as Craig went off to Europe to play hockey while Jessica studied at the University of Ottawa.
They returned to P.E.I. the following year and married in 2013. Craig is the president of operations for the Charlottetown Islanders hockey team, and Jessica works at Parks Canada.
They live in Jessica's hometown of Stratford, P.E.I., with their three young children.
"I have always felt like Carp and Charlottetown were very similar as both have that small-town feel where everyone knows each other, and everyone is connected in one way or another to everyone," Craig says.
"Whether it's uncles, cousins, neighbours, community groups or sports teams everyone supports each other like their own."
7. Steve LeCoure and Lana McMurrer
Like many couples on P.E.I., Steve LeCoure and Lana McMurrer met through family.
Steve grew up in Brampton, Ont., and came to UPEI to play hockey in 1996. Three years later, at the UPEI Barn, they were introduced through a group of friends that included Lana's brother and sister.
"Lana was a beautiful soul that I was drawn to the moment I met her," Steve says. "On top of that, her family was top notch. Great people, very genuine, that Island hospitality I guess you could say."
Feb. 21 will be their ninth wedding anniversary.
Steve is the operations manager at Upstreet Craft Brewery and Lana is a naturopathic doctor.
They live in Charlottetown with their two children.
Not only did Steve settle on P.E.I., his parents and and sister eventually joined him.
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