There will be a very special Hockey Day in Nanaimo this week, and over the years, there have been a lot of special days of hockey in the city.
The Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association is recognizing the sport’s 75-year history in the Harbour City by organizing Hockey Day in Nanaimo this Saturday (Jan. 10).
The association has been observing the milestone all season, as it unveiled specially designed vintage jerseys in the fall.
“The 75th anniversary of Nanaimo hockey is a milestone opportunity for our members to celebrate our history,” said Jamie Davis, the association’s president. “It is fun to reflect and recognize those players, coaches, parents, and volunteers who have come before us.”
According to the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association, the first organized hockey team in the city was a juvenile squad that took the ice at the Civic Arena in 1939-40. At the time, the city had one of only four covered arenas in British Columbia, and the Clippers intermediate and senior teams became immediately competitive, winning the Coy Cup in back-to-back seasons in 1941, and ’42, plus a handful of other titles during the ’40s and ’50s.
The first Clippers junior team began play in the Pacific Coast Junior Hockey League in 1944 and won the championship its first two years.
The sport has evolved since then. Jack Prestley, a Clippers player from the 1940s, said “it was a tough game” back then, “you hit and you expected to be hit,” but not the same way players hit nowadays.
“Now they come across the ice at 80 miles an hour and they’re so fast and fit,” Prestley said.
The sticks are not wood anymore, said Davis, no one uses catalogues for shin pads, and some of the rules have changed.
“But we are all connected in representing our community and our love of the game,” he said.
Les Mitchell, grandfather of NHLer Willie Mitchell, scored the championship-winning goal for the Clippers in 1945 and will be on hand Saturday at the Nanaimo Ice Centre for hockey day’s ceremonial puck drop. The midget Tier 1 Clippers play the Juan de Fuca Orcas at 2 p.m. and there will be minor hockey games throughout that day at every arena, plus prizes and 50/50 draws.
To learn more about the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association, please visit www.hockeynanaimo.com.