PORT HAWKESBURY: The Junior Pirates gathered to celebrate their 53rd consecutive season at the team’s annual banquet last Saturday night with good food, good cheer, and considerable elbow room.
The gathering was arguably the most unusual banquet in recent memory, as only three players attended. The rest of the team was stuck in traffic on the mainland-side of the Canso Causeway, the result of a tragic traffic collision that took place earlier that afternoon. Traffic was at a standstill from mid-afternoon until well into the night.
The numbers may have been low, but that didn’t stop the attendants from having a great evening.
“Every year at the end of hockey season, I’d think, well, at least there’ll be next September,” said outgoing captain Nathan Hayes. “I guess that’s not something I can say anymore, but I’m happy to say that I was here. I’m grateful to everyone who was involved.”
Also speaking at the event was long-time Pirate executive member Joe Praught, who severed as the master of ceremonies.
“Nathan hit the nail on the head,” he said. “For those parents who are here, I certainly hope you feel very proud sitting here this evening. You stop to think about it, sixteen or seventeen years ago, you took a little boy to a hockey rink. You laced his skates up for the first time, and you held him until he could stand on his own. He grew into one of the fine young men here this evening.”
Praught said he has the utmost respect for the Pirate players, as they conduct themselves as fine young men at all times.
Joining Hayes and Praught at the banquet were players Riley Keeling and Matthew Cottell, coaches, executive members, and chef Louis Boudreau’s signature meatball buffet.
Also making an appearance at the banquet was Adam Rodgers, the newly-minted president of the team. He said there seems to be a sense of excitement in the community related to the squad, both based on the quality of play of this year’s team and the modifications being made behind the scenes.
Rodgers isn’t the only new addition to the team. A new general manager and assistants have been added, as well as a revamped executive. A new head coach is expected to be named in the near future, and several innovations are being cooked up.
For one thing, a membership program is being devised that will see members become owners of the team. Rodgers mentioned that Bob MacEachern played an instrumental role in the revisions.
The new president also tipped his hat to the Pirates for their performance late in the season. The Strait had a tough year, due to an injury-shortened bench due that was the status quo from September onward. However, Rodgers said the squad had moments of brilliance, even though the wins were hard to come by.
“I saw the guys take on Glace Bay, the top team in the league, a few times toward the end of the year, and you gave them everything they could handle – and more,” he said.
This year’s award winners include Hayes and Troy Hillier, who shared the accolade as Pirate of the Year. Hayes was also named Regular Season MVP, Team Leader, and Best Defenseman. Hillier was given the award as Most Dedicated Player.
Randon MacKinnon was the Playoff MVP and also received the award for scoring leader. Also garnering awards were Floyd MacDonald, Bob McCall Award; Morgan Timmons, President’s Award; Joseph MacDonnell, Rookie of the Year Award; Matt Stymest, Most Games Stars; Duncan MacInnis, Most Underated Player Award; Riley Keeling, Most Improved Player Award, Jaron Bollivar, the Sportsmanship and Ability Award; and Mitchell Warner, Best Defensive Forward Award.