DIGBY, N.S. – Managing four kids at home, four kids’ hockey schedules and two house league hockey teams all paled in comparison with the reality of flying with a group of 17 pre-teen boys to Ottawa.
“I never thought in a million years we’d actually win it,” Rosanna Manzer said, manager of the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association, Digby Peewee C team, that won the travel-expenses paid trip back in November that sent the team to Ottawa over the holidays.
The excitement over winning the Canada 150 Rink Hockey on the Hill contest to represent Nova Scotia as the only boys team from the province soon turned to nerves as Manzer contemplated travelling with a large group of other people’s children.
“This trip took the title ‘team manager’ to a whole new level,” Manzer said. “It was a lot of planning and coordinating and fundraising. The parents really worked hard on that. But I was actually a bit nervous. I was really, really hoping nobody got sick on the plane or while we were there.”
As it turned out, many of the team members’ parents also opted to pay their own way to go along, but while they were able to book into the same hotel, they were all on other flights. But Manzer said, in spite of the late arrival home on New Year’s Eve, and a few minor bus delays in Ottawa, the team was well-behaved and the entire experience was “fantastic.”
“I’d do it all again,” Manzer said. “They had so much fun.”
That being said some parts of the trip didn’t exactly turn out as planned – the deep-freeze in Ottawa meant the outdoor games on the outdoor 150th Rink were all cancelled.
“The boys were a bit bummed about that,” Manzer said. “But kids are so resilient, they quickly got over it, and some of the arenas we got to play in instead were really amazing.”
The Peewee C team ended up playing teams from Nunavut, Ottawa and British Columbia in their Round Robin in the special Canada 150 division of the Bell Capital Cup, but dropped all three games – 5-1, 5-2 and 1-0.
“Yes, they lost all three games – they just couldn’t settle down in the first two and the last game was so close and they really played more like themselves. But even with the losses, they kept their spirits up. They knew they’d worked hard,” Manzer said. “By peewee age, they also know, you win some, you lose some. And they were just so excited to be there and be part of it all.”
Each year since 2000, the annual Ottawa International Hockey Festival, known as the Bell Capital Cup, welcomes minor hockey teams to the nation’s capital from across Canada and around the world to compete in the world’s premier atom (9- and 10-year-olds) and peewee (11- and 12-year-olds) minor hockey festival during the holiday season.
The 2016 Festival had more than 400 teams representing 4,000-plus participants with more than 15,000 spectators and visitors.
While their own hockey games didn’t turn out to be the highlights for the Digby team, staying at the same hotel as teams from Nunavut and Switzerland was fascinating Manzer said.
The boys were also dazzled by being driven around each day by an assigned large white bus with space for their hockey bags underneath the seating.
“They thought that was so cool, having their own bus, like they were the Mariners or something,” Manzer said.
Being put out of the tourney early meant they had a couple of days for sightseeing. The team visited a couple of museums, went swimming, skated for fun on the 150 ice rink, and attended an Ottawa Senator’s game.
“The Senators won for us,” Manzer said.
She also said the Digby team made quite an impression on the teams they played by handing out gift bags to each opposing team member that were filled with souvenirs - pins, flags and postcards – from Digby and Nova Scotia.
“The team also had their Nova Scotia flags and before each game they would do a skate around the rink waving their flags – it was really amazing to watch,” Manzer said.
But for Manzer the highlight of the trip was the time the team spent with their coaching staff, shopping for souvenirs to bring back home, a few hours before they boarded the plane for home.
“It was so sweet to see,” Manzer said. “They were coming up to us and asking, ‘Do you think my mom would like this?’ I loved that moment,” Manzer added. “It was just the best.”
As for the boys on the team, including Manzer’s own son Isaiah, they’re all still talking about the trip, at school and on social media. “That Ottawa trip was lit,” Manzer quoted from one of them from Instagram. And Manzer is filled with gratitude to all the people who helped make the trip happen from parents to local businesses and local politicians.
“On behalf of the team, I just want to say thanks to the Digby community and the surrounding areas and to all of the people and the parents who helped make this happen,” Manzer said, on behalf of herself and her husband George, the team’s coach. “The support we received was incredible – we were just stunned and amazed by it. We received support from so many different people and places – and everyone was so happy for us – so genuinely happy that we had this opportunity.
“People will never know how grateful we are.”