PEI

'I'm having a ball': Fans enjoy Kraft Hockeyville NHL preseason game despite the scoreline

A packed house at Credit Union Place in Summerside was treated to the Kraft Hockeyville NHL preseason game Islanders have been waiting for.

The New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators 8-1

Two young fans watch as the Ottawa Senators warm up. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

It was a packed house at Credit Union Place in Summerside, P.E.I., to take in the Kraft Hockeyville NHL preseason game Islanders had been waiting for.

After scoring five goals in the opening period, the New Jersey Devils cruised to an 8-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Credit Union Place in Summerside was packed with hockey fans watching the NHL preseason tilt between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Before the game Jo-Anne Wallace, a member of the O'Leary Hockeyville organizing committee, was presented with a trophy symbolizing the community winning the contest.

O'Leary Kraft Hockeyville organizer Della Sweet handled the ceremonial puck drop before the action started. 

Tammy Rix and Bill Mackendrick, two members of the organizing committee were there to see their hard work come to fruition.

"A culmination of a lot of months of work and it's so nice. Where else could you go to an NHL game and know over half of the crowd," said Mackendrick.

"That's pretty special really."

Rix and Mackendrick both knew that even though they were organizing the effort to have O'Leary crowned the Hockeyville winners, it wouldn't have been possible without the support they received.

Tammy Rix and Bill Mackendrick, members of the organizing committee, say that winning the Kraft Hockeyville title would have been impossible without the volunteers that helped along the way. (Krystalle Ramlakhan)

"We couldn't have done it without all the volunteers that helped us along the way," said Rix.

"We might have started something, but every single volunteer that we asked to help us, they all helped us," added Mackendrick.

"It was a real community effort, an Island effort really."

'Give them a taste'

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is one of the hockey heavyweights in town for the pre-season game.

Bettman says the event is a unique opportunity for the hockey community and fans on P.E.I.

"It's great. I know hockey is such an important presence on the Island," said Bettman

"Bringing a game with two NHL teams, to people who might not ever have seen an NHL game in person … this will give them a taste of what it's like to see it up close and personal."

CBC's Jay Scotland had a chance to speak with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at Credit Union Place before puck drop on Monday. (CBC)

'Having a ball'

Wendy Paynter was at Credit Union Place to watch the game and even though it wasn't going the way the devoted Senators fan would have liked, she was still enjoying the experience.

"I'm having a ball," she said.

"I was dying to come tonight, I found a way in and I'm excited to be here."

Tracy Hicken (left) and Wendy Paynter were having a great time at Credit Union Place - even though the Senators weren't. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Paynter said hosting the game was great for P.E.I., but winning the contest was even better for O'Leary. 

"I'm so happy for the town of O'Leary to win Kraft Hockeyville. That town really needed the support and everything that came with it."

'Conjures up memories'

Kent Ferguson was one of the thousands in attendance on Monday night. 

"It's kind of a downer for local fans cause they're all Ottawa fans," he said. "I think the crowd's going to have to switch over to New Jersey pretty soon so there's some noise in the arena."

Kent Ferguson (left) and Laurie Ouellette were in attendance. Ferguson says the game reminded him of his days playing hockey at the O'Leary Arena. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

​Bettman said the game brings the community together in its love of hockey.

"What it tells you is, people love seeing the game back at its roots, in communities, in local rinks," he said.

Even though it this a preseason game, Bettman said the environment offers players a chance to reflect.

"Players love coming to these communities," he said.

"It conjures up memories for them of when they were young kids just learning the game."

Ferguson echoed Bettman's sentiment about the game being an opportunity to look back.

"It's great for the kids, it's great for the people," he said.

"It brings back the memories of the old days when we were all playing minor hockey at the O'Leary Arena."

Bettman also said the prospect of having NHL players at the 2022 Olympics isn't even on the league's radar. 

"It's not anything we're even thinking about right now."

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan and Jay Scotland

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