Hockey Week and Barbados — not exactly things people naturally associate. But this group of 80 Ottawa Senators fans have come to relax, meet new people, and make sure they don’t miss a game while on vacation. You have to respect their spirit and dedication when a day that starts at 3 A.M. does not stop you from being at Bert’s Bar ready for an 8 P.M. puck drop.
After an early morning connection through Toronto, the five-hour leg to Barbados is quiet easy. In fact, the flight — ours being the first Barbados flight for Air Canada’s new low-cost airline Air Rouge — is the first opportunity to meet fellow Hockey Week travellers as you head down. It’s a big airplane, but the Sens jerseys are a big give away that that’s the group you’re looking for.
Some people say they love this trip because it means you won’t miss a game. There are a mix of “newbies” and people who return with the group year after year. Despite the name it’s more about the chance to try something new, say organizers Owen Shortt and Al Armstrong.
“It’s about the hockey, but you don’t have to be a die-hard fan, it’s just a way to connect people,” says Shortt.
The Winchester Travel agents point out that amidst the sea of Senators red may just be a few people who root for other teams (there is tell of a rumoured Habs fan amongst them this year).
Every year organizers give away prizes to kick off the trip — this year’s swag was all donated by the Ottawa Senators — and the group enjoys its own private area in the bar for some food and the game. The organizers say it’s lucky the Senators play on the first night, and that Bert’s Bar, owned by Eugene Melnyk, is (not-so-coincidentally) just around the corner for this group to watch the puck drop.
It’s a shame about the team’s loss to Washington on Sunday — but we won’t talk about that now. Sun and sea await — and another chance for the Senators to win on Wednesday, when they face Anaheim.
Ottawa Magazine’s Kimberley Johnson is in Barbados this week, courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. Follow her dispatches from the Caribbean every day this week, as she explores sun, sand and the Senators. She’ll also be tweeting (@ottawamag) and posting photos via Instagram (ottawa_magazine). And read an exclusive excerpt from Bruce Firestone’s new book about the Senators, Don’t Back Down: The Real Story of the Founding of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, on our website.