It was the first Rogers Hometown Hockey Festival for Braxton VanRybroeck, a member of the Tillsonburg Tornadoes midget rep hockey team.
“They had the NHL 100 here a few years ago (2017) so I was at that, but I’ve never been to one of these,” said VanRybroeck, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan wearing an Alex Ovechkin jersey Sunday afternoon.
“I thought it was pretty cool when I heard it was coming to our hometown. I watch it every week on Sportsnet. I follow it all the time so I was excited to come. It’s like a once in a lifetime thing when you’re in a small town – it’s not something that happens very often. So it’s cool to have something this big, hockey-related, happen, especially to a community that’s so passionate about the sport.”
VanRybroeck said he planned to come back Monday night for the live Hometown Hockey broadcast with Ron MacLean and Tara Stone.
“I have practice, then I’ll come right out.”
TMHI would be represented, he said. “Usually there’s an older kid, my age, on the panel. Then a younger kid and a girl’s hockey player, I think that’s what they normally do.”
“It’s great for the kids,” said Tillsonburg Tornadoes novice coach Darryl Vandendriessche as the team played ball hockey on the Hometown Hockey rink.
“And good for the town,” said novice assistant coach Darren Swick (and atom rep coach).
“Too bad about the rainy weather right now,” said Vandendriessche, who also assists with the Peewee AE team. “But it’s great for the town, great for the kids. Fun.”
“I think a lot of the teams got use of the ball hockey event,” said Swick. “So that was a good sign. They did all the other stuff too, like the Hyundai Puck Challenge over in the corner there. Actually one of the atom reps has the lowest score so far. They had the radar for shots over there.
“This is awesome, a once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating, but it’s a really cool event. We’re thankful to Rogers for bringing this here.”
The U9 novice Tornadoes opened their season with the Roy Beechey Memorial Hockey Tournament in Tillsonburg. Southern Counties games started earlier in November. They had a games Saturday (at St. George) and early Sunday afternoon at home (Aylmer).
“We’re doing very well, we’re off to a great start,” said Vandendriessche.
“Playing good hockey,” Swick nodded. “The kids are learning and that’s the main thing. Growing and developing.”
Novices play half-ice, four-on-four hockey until Jan. 15, then full ice, with six more league games scheduled before Christmas and two half-ice games after.