Red carpet ready: NHL players hit the ice for Hockeyville

The Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils are in Summerside, P.E.I., Monday to play their pre-season game for Hockeyville.

Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils to play pre-season game in Summerside, P.E.I.

Students from Bloomfield Elementary show off their Hockeyville autographs. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

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.

Young fans in the stands watch the Ottawa Senators in their morning skate Monday at Credit Union Place in Summerside. The Senators and New Jersey Devils square off at 7 p.m. in the Hockeyville game. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

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 hosted his teammates at his home on P.E.I. Sunday, speaks with reporters in Summerside on Monday. (Tracy Lightfoot/CBC)

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.

The Stanley Cup in O'Leary, P.E.I., for Monday night's Kraft Hockeyville celebration and match between the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"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."

Players sign autographs Monday morning, as kids line the red carpet entrance to the Summerside arena. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

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."

Students from Bloomfield Elementary await the arrival of NHL players at Credit Union Place in Summerside. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

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.

Ron MacLean and Don Cherry arrived at Charlottetown Airport Sunday night. (Submitted by Kerry Kearnes)

"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.

With files from Kevin Yarr and Mitch Cormier