WINDSOR, N.S. — A New Brunswick man has checked another item off his bucket list thanks to Windsor's annual Long Pond Hockey Heritage Classic.
Barry Blyth, who hails from Chipman, left his sunny vacation home in Florida for a chance to lace up his skates at the Birthplace of Hockey and play alongside — and against — one of his favourite hockey players of all time.
“The idea of original ice pond hockey, and the chance to play on that as a 62-year-old, that's a once in a lifetime thing,” said Blyth. “The fact that you get to meet Wendel Clark and be on the ice when Wendel Clark is on the ice, that's priceless.”
Blyth was one of many lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fans who were excited to visit Windsor and rub shoulders with the well-known enforcer.
“When I heard that Clark was coming up here — it was something on my bucket list; I couldn't turn it down,” said Blyth, while standing near a fire pit with the famed sportsman.
“He's such a good guy that if you didn't know (who he was), you'd think he was your neighbour... You'd think he was a friend next door.”
Following his first game of the day, Clark, whose career lasted from 1985 until 2000, said he was enjoying participating in the classic.
“It's good. It's fun hanging out by the fire, watching the shinny games going on and playing some hockey,” he said.
“The ice is typical pond ice — the more you skate on it, the more it cuts up and you can't get it fixed and you get the pressure cracks that happen on ponds. It's just like the old days when I grew up,” Clark said.
Brooklyn's Garnett Davison, also a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan, said “it was just a thrill and a half” to play with Clark.
Davison, who is 72, skates three times a week and thoroughly enjoys participating in the classic every year.
“It's just to get out on the pond. I love to play hockey.”
Ron Duguay, who donned a New York Rangers jersey when on the ice Jan. 27, was the other former NHLer who participated in the annual fundraising event. He was quite animated on the ice, teasing opponents and joking with teammates. Both Clark and Duguay took time to pose for photos, sign autographs and reminisce during the event.
Andrew Dill, whose family has helped promote Long Pond as being the Birthplace of Hockey for more than two decades, participates every year. Last year, he met one of his idols – Ray Bourque. This year, Dill skated alongside Clark and would later play with Duguay.
“It's an honour and privilege to have them here and help further endorse our claim as the Birthplace of Hockey and take part in a great day for a great cause — the hockey society,” said Dill.
Dill suggested anyone interested in taking part in 2019 should put their names forward as the annual event continues to grow in popularity.
“If you want to be part of this and play on a team, get your name in there early because there is a waiting list that's growing for teams that want to play here and skate side-by-side with an NHL legend,” he said.
For Trina Norman, the president of Windsor Hockey Heritage Society, seeing the teams filled and visitors mulling about was a sign of a successful fundraiser.
“We couldn't be happier,” said Norman.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year... It helps us keep the museum going; it helps us pay for staff and keep it open and keep the story of hockey in Windsor alive.”