Where did it all begin? What initiated the immense passion for Hockey in O'leary? What kicked off our little endeavour? Lets take a look;
Pre 1900 We can find information leading back to the 1890's. This is when the first couple of hockey clubs formed on the Island. Charlettown and Summerside both gained their own respective teams. However nothing came to West Prince until 1912.
1912 marked the founding of the first rink in O'leary. We had an outdoor ice surface constructed behind the Station House. Naturally, O'leary started forming teams. One could point out that Alberton beat O'leary to the punch on this one. They did legitimately have the first pre WW1 Hockey team.
Enter the Maroons. Named after the Montreal Maroons, an old NHL team, sharing the same crest on their jersey's, respectively, this was sometime around the mid 20s. We mark the first appearance of Women's hockey. Intermediate level hockey also started around this time. We had the formation of the Athletes Association Team around 1925. The first indoor rink broke ground in 1928.
On to the '30's, the Charlettown "Ice Palace" is built. It featured PEI's first artifical ice. It was housed in a giant building, and drew massive crowds. The construction of O'leary's Indoor rink completed, and was opened in 1933. The O'leary Rink Assocation formed. (One should note that it was featured in "Threads of the Past.") Also, Hockey Night in Canada is first broadcast on the Radio.
Just a sidenote
Before moving on to when it really took off, let me further clarify... Hockey developement in O'leary isnt limited to the rinks... Nor to the sport itself... Winter hobbies really took off in these years. Skating became immensely popular. The maratimes in particular really latched on to skating. O'leary was poised in a great position to adopt skating related hobbies. The key? O'leary offered many open fields. These fields were prime real estate to create "ice surfaces". My opinion and the opinion of many is that this was the seed that grew into the love of Hockey in this locale.
When we move into the 40's, it really kicked off. Post WW2 life saw a huge boom in sports. Most of our athletic people were away, fighting in the war. Upon their return, sports kicked into overdrive. Maybe it had to do with the developement of the Department of Physical Fitness. Either way, it was greatly supported. 1947 to 1949 saw three Stanley Cups for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This caused a great deal of hype for Hockey in the Maratimes. We had no local teams, still dont. But many people rooted for the Leafs. Radio programs continued to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada, and it was seeing massive growth in popularity, only boosting the hype. Dr. Dewar (1947 - 2006) moved to town around this time. He would move on to become a town icon. He quickly become president of the O'leary Athletics Association, and hold the position for 10 years. He would become one of the biggest financial backers and fans for local hockey. 1940 itself saw a minor setback to O'learys indoor arena; A fire would strike the dressing room. Bayfield Ellis was immediately there to aid with repairs to the building.
Moving to the '50's, we formed the Community league in 1950. We saw the Maroons bring home the Island Championship in '52. '51 was the year the Maroon Sisters were awarded with the Phsyical Fitness trophy. More and more teams were popping up around the province. Soft Helmets made their debut on the island. In 1956 a sleetstorm resulted in the collapse of the rink's roof in O'leary. It was rebuilt in 1959, Otis MacNeil was the foreman lead on that project. We saw the debut of the O'leary Atomics. The rink also started supplying sticks for players. Curved sticks came into effect over the 50's too. The late 50's also saw the debut of the Regal All Stars team.
In the 60's; January 29th 1960 to be exact, we held the Fancy Dress Carnival to celebrate the reopening of the rink, after the roof collapse. James Smallman, a prominent figure in Minor Hockey came into the picture through the 60's. Louis Bernard was named Ice/Facilities Manager the same year the Artifial Ice debuted; 1967. The Centennial Project instituted the artificial ice at the now rebadged Centennial Arena. The squared corners on the ice surface were rounded during this time. Charlie Willis came into the picture in the 60's. Some may recognize the name from the CF Willis Baseball field.
As the 70's rolled around, Alton Rayner, a pillar of the rink, decided to sell the tractor pulled ice auger, an early Zamboni, if you will. More modern equipment was used instead. Broomball made its debut. Helmets were becoming more commonly used. The arena housed Canadian Amateur Boxing. Bob Conrad came into the picture as referee of in house games. Ken McCormick steps in as icemaker. The community leagues are becoming more and more populary. Games see massive growths in attendance. Jimmy Baglole takes on Coaching/Managing duties of local teams. Orville Willis, Clair Sweet and super fan Norma Smith step into the picture to help support local sport. Towards the end of the '70's, the junior teams debut. In 1979 the rink underwent renovations. A modern entrance was added, a canteen was added as well as an additional floor. Alan Shaw helmed the project. Thelma Sweet came on board to manage the books during the 70's as well.
Enter the 1980's. We see a trio of new people assuming positions at the rink with Allan Shaw taking the presidents chair for a while, then Joanne Wallace was hired as the rink manager/recreation director, then Alan McBain began his long term tenure as ice maker. He currently holds the position. Richard Livingstone assumes the role of announcing all the games. Eric Philips, president of the Minor Hockey Association, hands over a check for $60,000 which he raised. We see the heyday of broomball during the 80's. Sledge hockey begins being promoted locally. And finally in 1989, the athletic association decides to refurbish the ice surface. Consultants are brought in, a controversial project in the community, however, it was passed and a year later, new ice is installed.
By the time the calandar hit 1990 the new ice was complete. Mike Vokey helmed the position of Rink Manager for 3 years, and Alan McBain returned to his duties in 93. Big news! The Philidelphia Flyers from the NHL make O'leary the home of their 1992 training camp. They say "The isolation should draw them closer as a team." With them, we see the debut of Eric Lindros, soon to be NHL Superstar. The Sun & Ice Hockey School opens in 93. Also in 1993, the Ottawa Senators come here for one day. Irving holds its Bantam AAA Atlantic Championship in 93. Barry Cooke of the Senior Maroons scores 10 goals in 1 game at Kensington, and incredible feat. A JR B team is formed in the 90's. Sadly in 1993 the rink goes bankrupt. Tammy Rix was the manager following for a year and a half. Della Sweet came aboard in 1995 and worked as rink manager until well into the new millenium. For some good news, towards the end of the 1990's, we see a rising star in Darcy Harris as he is selected to play in OHL in 1996. In '97 he moves to the AHL. Again, in '98 he is drafted to the NHL by the Canadiens. He would finish in the AHL in 2001.
By the time the new millenium would hit, womens hockey would still be going. Nancy Mcmillan and Joanne Wallace made sure of that. Terry Phillips would be succeded as Kevin Adams stepped in as coach of the Maroons, he still holds the position. In 2002 the Don Johnson Cup for the maratime JR B Champion was held. Unfortunately it also marked the final year for the JR B team. Ed Smallman steps in as the new Icemaker at the arena. John Costello, the current chief of the O'leary Officials marks his debut. Elton Ellis and Stewart Gillcash organized an extremely succesful Old Timer's tournament. Pond Hockey tournaments were becoming a common place thing. And then the big event. In 2006, Kraft Canada offered up the title of Hockeyville. A contest was organized to name a Canadian community "Hockeyville". O'leary was all about that for quite some time. Making it into the finals, but not "officially" winning the title, O'leary adopted the name anyway.
And finally, that brings us to the current decade. Allan MacBain marks a 25 year tenure as Ice Manager. We now have Sandie Smallman as our Rink Manager. A Russian and Canadian hockey exhibition game takes place. Canada prevails. Womens hockey is really taking off after the Canada Olympic games. This brings us up to date. This is what we have gathered, and as you can see, there is definitely a need for this project. Maybe now you have a better idea of the history, the facts behind our project, if you will. You can see that for a town that's population is little more than 860, Hockey is obviously a big part of life in O'leary.