The city of Pembroke and its storied hockey franchise took centre stage recently when Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast live from the parking lot of historic Pembroke Memorial Centre. For three hours, the city and its special relationship with the sport were profiled to a national television audience on Sportsnet, the final act in a three day hockey festival which travels across the country, moving from one community to another.
(Lumber Kings alumnus Dave Eastwood tries out the hardest shot competition at the Rogers Hometown Hockey festival)
The family friendly hockey festival featured several activations that included a ball hockey rink for minor hockey players, a hardest shot competition, table hockey, shooting accuracy and an opportunity to meet former Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Methot who signed autographs. But, the main attraction was the national broadcast and hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone left no stone unturned as they shared Pembroke’s rich hockey history with the rest of Canada.
(Ron MacLean of Hockey Night in Canada drops into the coaches office before the Lumber Kings game with Brockville to chat with head coach Alex Armstrong and assistant coach Peter Sigouin)
Their journey into Pembroke’s hockey past started with a tour of the Pembroke Memorial Centre prior to the Lumber Kings game with the visiting Brockville Braves on Sunday, December 6th. The historic rink is celebrating its 70th anniversary and the pictures that are placed on its walls and the banners that hang from its rafters catalogue the PMC’s early days and the great players and coaches who made their way through Pembroke.
(Tara Slone and Ron MacLean participate in a ceremonial puck drop prior to the Lumber Kings game with the Brockville Braves. Photo courtesy Pembroke Observer and News
After participating in a ceremonial puck drop with Slone before the Kings game, MacLean continued his research by providing colour commentary on the Your TV broadcast. He used the time to learn more about the current Lumber Kings squad, including captain Brady Egan, who is a direct descendant of one of the NHL’s greatest players, Bill Cowley, who was Egan’s Great Grandfather.
During the Sportsnet broadcast, MacLean spoke about a play Egan made in a game a couple of nights earlier in Brockville that reminded him of Frank Nighbor’s great hook check. Nighbor is Pembroke’s most famous hockey player. He won five Stanley Cups during his career and was the first recipient of both the Hart and Lady Byng trophies. He is also widely known as the player who refined what is now known as a poke check, but Nighbor framed it as a hook check where he laid his stick flat on the ice and stole the puck from an opponent.
Interviews with former Lumber Kings owner and head coach Sheldon Keefe and former Kings player P.J. Stock filled the intermissions of the NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche as about 150 hockey fans braved a very cold night to be part of the Hometown Hockey viewing party in the PMC parking lot.
The night was capped off with two minor hockey players helping choose game stars from the NHL game. Gavin Nighbor and Ruby Selle joined MacLean and Slone who wore Lumber Kings jerseys to close out the broadcast, capping a great weekend of celebrating Pembroke’s hockey heritage.