Barrie's Sadlon Arena was buzzing with both team spirit and Christmas spirit today.
More than 2,000 high school students from across the Barrie area spent the day cheering on the teams as they competed in the Kempenfelt Cup, an annual high school hockey tournament that raises money for Barrie and District Christmas Cheer.
Participating Barrie schools included North, Eastview, Innisdale, and Bear Creek, as well as Innisfil's Nantyr Shores. The Eastview boys defeated Nantyr, 3-0, in the final, while the girls championship went to Barrie North with a 2-0 victory over rival Eastview.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both organizers and students were thrilled to be back at the rink to watch their team play for the coveted trophy.
“We started the first one 10 years ago and we have always had Barrie and District Christmas Cheer as our event sponsor,” event organizer Doug Woods told BarrieToday. “Over the years, we have raised over $75,000. Today, I think we have raised over $17,000 from the five high schools involved.
"It’s just awesome to have the building full of kids again. The energy and enthusiasm is fantastic," he added.
Woods was excited to be bring the event back through the local public school board and involve students in supporting a charity that does such good work this time of year.
“It’s obviously a time of year when we have so many great family traditions and the excitement and energy, but we also have a lot of families in need and Barrie and District Cheer do a lot of good work," he said.
The event featured both boys and girls hockey teams from local high schools in Simcoe County. They competed in a tournament over the course of five hours.
“The games are short, they are super fun and there’s lots of energy and enthusiasm by the fans in the stands," Woods said.
After playing in the cup for Barrie North Collegiate while in high school, both Ruby Mills and Kaitlin McKnight were excited to return Wednesday to cheer on their former team, including McKnight’s younger sister.
“I played for three years … and some of my best memories are at this event playing. Probably my favourite memory of playing hockey in high school was scoring at the event, so it’s a lot of great memories and a lot of fun,” McKay told BarrieToday. “I played with a lot of the girls in previous years, so it’s nice seeing them again — and the whole environment, everyone is just excited to be here.”
Bear Creek Secondary School students Kenzie Irwin, Olivia Fraser and Paityn Munn were among the more than 2,000 students from around the Barrie area who came out to cheer on their fellow students on the ice, and to enjoy a day off school.
“I wanted to watch the hockey game and I wanted to be part of (this event),” Irwin shouted as players crashed into the boards just a few feet from her seat. “I like all of the energy and how everyone is so excited.”
“I am excited to skip a bit of school and watch some hockey,” added Munn. “The energy and the crowd cheering is pretty cool.”
Blair Molto, who is the general manager with the Junior 'C' Alliston Hornets, came out to cheer the players on. He says the Provincial Junior Hockey League team has been sponsoring the Kempenfelt Cup for several years.
“It’s a great event and a lot of high school kids actually come and play in the Junior 'C' league, so it’s a great event for us to sponsor and it helps to promote our league within the high schools and in Barre as well,” he said as players from Eastview Secondary School faced off at centre ice against Innisfil's Nantyr Shores Secondary School.
“After the last couple of years with COVID, it’s great to see people out and about and enjoying themselves," Molto added.