Ottawa Magazine’s Kimberley Johnson is in Barbados for Hockey 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.
Christ Church, BARBADOS — Winchester Travel Hockey Week Organizers Owen Shortt and Al Armstrong say they can’t figure out why there aren’t more events like Hockey Week in Barbados.
To them, the idea seemed quite simple, says Armstrong.
“One day, on the beach, in Punta Cana I believe, Owen said to me we could do something with hockey fans, and take them to Barbados,” explains Armstrong. “We love Barbados, and we thought we could work with Bert’s Bar here, and the Sens, and tie it all in.”
“I think for me, it’s a natural connection,” agrees Shortt. “Ottawa, sun, sand, the Senators, Mr. Melnyk. It’s a pretty easy jigsaw for me to put together. The Sens games being on, it was just an easy connection.”
A lot of people on the trip agree, the beach and hockey connect more than one would think. Bob Monette, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Orléans, and his wife, Pat, are making their second Hockey Week trip, and he says the connection is getting the best of both worlds.
“We’re die-hard Sens fans and when you go to the Caribbean usually you miss out on watching hockey,” explains Monette. “And on this trip, one of the pluses is you’ll always see Sens games — and you’re not by yourself. You’re with a group of 80 people, and they’re die-hard Sens fans. The atmosphere, everyone is wearing Sens gear and having fun.”
Senators season ticket holder Nick Medeiros says he won the trip bidding at a charity auction night and enjoys the Ottawa Senators fan element.
“It’s a great way to break the ice, you know you already have that connection to start with. You know hockey fans are going to have fun,” says Medeiros. “I also like how people are strangely connected. You start to talk, and people have mutual friends, and it’s very strange that it took coming to Barbados to meet.”
Most members of the Hockey Week group are Senators fans but the group is not exclusive and the Senators don’t sponsor the trip.
Armstrong and Shortt put the entire event together but say the Senators have been supportive in small ways.
“They gave us their blessing to use their logo and (name),” says Armstrong, “and some prizes to give out during the trip and people have a memento.”
Allan Graham, retired owner of AJ’s Catering in Metcalfe, is making his second Hockey Week trip with the group, and admits he’s more of a laid-back hockey fan, but loves the group atmosphere.
“You’re not the least bit intimidated if you’re not a sports jock,” he explains. “You’re one of a group of 80 that are here to have a great time. You can do things together, or on your own.”
Shortt says what he finds is that people are surprised that a small, local travel agency is organizing it.
But Shortt says that despite the size of the office, they focus heavily on group trips, and it really helps people who have never been anywhere.
According to Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., as a travel agent Shortt has booked more Canadians to travel to Barbados than any other agent in Canada. Shortt received an award this week from the company for his work.
“People ask why I do it, but it’s because I get to have fun as well.” laughs Shortt.
Members of Hockey Week get the chance to do all different things on the island, but also are able to fill their own time as well. Downtime, often during the day, can be swimming at the beach or venturing out into Bridgetown to take in the sites. At night there are activities and chances to meet the new people your travelling with, like Tuesday’s dinner and dancing, while listening to fellow Hockey Weeker Riq Turner, from the band Ambush, perform.
Senators fan Shelly Plooy says it’s the best of both worlds.
“It kills two birds with one stone. You get to cheer on your team, and you get to do it in 90-degree weather instead of -90-degree weather. What’s not to like about that?”
Deputy-Mayor Monette agrees the entire event is a real experience.
“I love watching the games at home but they don’t compare to watching the Sens in Barbados.”
He and the other 79 die-hard Senators fans won’t have to wait long for the next game. They’ll be in their own exclusive area at Bert’s Bar for Saturday night’s game against the L.A. Kings.