On Sept. 14, the rivalry between Kingston, Ontario and Windsor, Nova Scotia over which community is the birthplace of hockey once again heated up.
Town criers from throughout the world are in Nova Scotia this week for an international town criers competition. On the morning of Sept. 14, a few hours before their competition in downtown Windsor, a tour bus led the town criers to Long Pond — the very spot Windsor claims founded the popular winter sport.
Chris Whyman, who is here representing Kingston, was aboard the bus.
“I was just looking at the sign that says 'Cradle of Hockey' and I thought, 'well, a cradle comes after the birth of hockey,'” said Whyman, smiling. “Someone has to be born before they get to the cradle so maybe you might want to change your signage a little bit! I'm teasing.”
Whyman and Lloyd Smith, the town crier for Windsor, have known each other since the 1980s and have a longstanding playful rivalry when it comes to hockey's origins.
“It's fun. It's a friendly rivalry between two communities — or three if you consider Montreal as another community that claims for it. We're going to continue this for a few years to come with smiles on our faces,” said Whyman.
The visit to Long Pond was a first for Whyman, as well as for the majority of town criers visiting the province.
Joe Seagram, the headmaster of King's-Edgehill School, and hockey history buff Danny Dill, the caretaker of Long Pond and the Dill Family Farm, greeted the town criers and explained the pond's history and continued importance in the story of hockey.
“It has been named, the summer before last, as one of the seven hockey wonders of the world by Sports Illustrated,” said Seagram.
The site, which attracts visitors of all ages, hosts a fundraiser each year that sees retired NHLers — like Ray Bourque, Glenn Anderson and Mike Krushelnyski — rubbing shoulders with everyday people while playing shinny on ice.
“The Stanley Cup has been here. It really has been a mecca. There's not a team that comes here to the province say for a tournament, from Finland or from the US, that don't sort of take a moment before heading to the airport to come to the birthplace,” said Seagram.
“Coaches have filled their waterbottles with Long Pond water before the playoffs and sprinkled it over their players' gear and equipment for good luck,” he added.
The town criers spent the rest of the morning visiting various sites. They are scheduled to parade from Water Street to Gerrish Street before taking part in a town crier competition this afternoon.