The Ottawa Senators' annual Minor Hockey Week presented by Scotiabank is underway. As part of Minor Hockey Week in Ottawa, a handful of Senators recalled some of their favourite minor hockey memories which set them on their path to what is now life in the NHL.
For Mark Stone, a favourite minor hockey memory doesn't place him in a rink or in the cozy confines of his hometown. In fact, it takes him far away from his hometown of Winnipeg and puts him on an NHL-sized ice surface in Edmonton.
As a member of the Winnipeg Jr. Jets Stone took part in the Brick Invitational Hockey tournament, which takes place each summer at the West Edmonton Mall. The future Senator was just nine years old.
Bill Comrie, father of former Senators forward Mike Comrie, founded the tournament in 1990 and it has since become a marquee tournament for nine and 10 year old players. Its participants include players, teams and coaches from across North America and serves as a way for hockey teams to get some summer vacation time in while also taking on some top flight competition.
Now, as the tournament gets set for its 25th anniversary it boasts a long list of alumni that includes many NHLers and Ottawa Senators. Besides Stone, others like Erik Condra, Eric Gryba and Kyle Turris are on the long list of pros who once skated in the tournament. Among Stone's teammates with the Jets was current Dallas Stars centre Cody Eakin.
On the ice, Stone's Jr. Jets squad came up a goal short in the Finals of their tournament after going undefeated in their previous games. It was just his second year of four with the program before they became the Mighty Moose in tandem with Winnipeg's AHL franchise.
"We played in the mall so it was pretty neat. We had a bunch of activities like a team event at the water park. We did a bunch of events and teams did it together," said Stone. "It was a thing you won. How your team did won you a stick or a jersey. That was pretty cool."
The trip to the Brick Tournament as a nine year old was Stone's first of two trips to the tournament. He played a year above his age during his first year. He returned a year later with a different group of teammates including Colorado Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard. Stone and Pickard played minor hockey for four summers together.
The team didn't fare as well as the previous summer, but the experience of playing in the tournament sticks out as his favourite from his days as a minor hockey player. Needless to say, the atmosphere was considerably different from that of life as an NHLer. It may seem like a cliché but it was all about the game and just having fun.
"We never really sweated it. We'd go to the games and go to the water park after. Not a worry in the world. It was awesome."
The Ottawa Senators Minor Hockey Week, which takes place in partnership with Scotiabank, features programs and initiatives that highlight teams, associations, coaches, players and volunteers in a salute to the region’s minor hockey communities.
If you're a member of Ottawa's minor hockey community and would like to find out more about what is available from Nov. 1 to 8, visit ottawasenators.com/minorhockeyweek.