As you walk into the Peterborough Memorial Centre with the bustling crowd, you take a look at the lobby walls to see numerous monuments honouring the men and women who the arena was named for, those who fought for our freedom in the first and second world war. A quick listen and you hear the of organist, playing away to your favourite in-arena jingles. A trip to the snack bar and you get yourself a hot dog, for the usual price of 15 cents. Then, you walk through the tunnel to the stands and see white rink boards, with no advertisements, before the Petes hit the ice in their traditional white, blue and red jerseys, with the gold “TPT Transportation” logo emblazoned on the front. What year is this, 1956?
It’s actually 2016, but it felt like history had come to life, as the Peterborough Petes held a throwback night, to mark the team’s inaugural game on November 8th, 1956. That game was played against the St. Catharines Tee Pees, so fittingly the Niagara Ice Dogs came to town to help mark the occasion, decked out in orange and white throwback uniforms themselves.
It was an event that took months of planning for the organization, but well worth it.
“Our goal from the get-go was to take it multiple steps further than to wear the standard same old jersey. It took a ton of help from sponsors (with help removing rink ads), the city (who operates the facility), to the food service company (taking the hit on hot-dog costs), not to mention the fans as well”, Petes VP of Business Operations Burton Lee told Around The OHL.
It also took a pretty big schedule change to get the date exact, since the Petes don’t typically play Tuesday night home games, as well as major partnership with the visiting Ice Dogs, who already planned to wear throwback uniforms to celebrate the team’s 10th season.
“We were actually a little bit caught off guard by their (Niagara’s) participation. Not that they wanted to get involved, but to the extent.” says Lee. “They just happened to be doing their commemorative sweater at the beginning of the year and instead of auctioning them off right away, they held onto them for two months, which is a pretty important thing. They pretty much agreed to take a hit on sales and revenue, to make our night special.”
Some fans, team employees and even broadcasters got in on the act, dressing in period costumes and fans who were born in 1956 or earlier got discounted tickets as well. Lee says the night was a chance to not only do something different for the current Petes fans, but to honour the ones who have been around since day one as well.
“We do so much trying to get kids and young families to the rink, but we haven’t done a ton of stuff to say hey here’s a group of fans that have been our fans for a long time and always will be. It was a kind of an extra way to give a pat on the back to our fans who have been around for 60 years.”
And as much as the fans enjoyed it, it was a special night for the players and coaches as well.
“Playing a game like this, I don’t think a lot of the guys really knew what to expect, other than wearing different uniforms. I’ve been involved in a handful of theme games like this in my time in the OHL, and you always get energy from the special nature of these games.” Said Petes’ defenceman and Tampa Bay draftee Matt Spencer.
Assistant Coach Jake Grimes agreed telling Around The OHL ““It was a lot of fun. Obviously the history here should be celebrated, and it was neat to be a part of everything. It was unique, and it was different, with everything from the coaches wearing fedoras to the 15 cent hot dogs, and it was nice to get a win, as well.”
The TPT Petes beat the Tee Pees 3-1, with goals from Matt Timms, Adam Timleck and import Jonne Tammela.
Lee says the authentic throwback night is definitely something team will try again and perhaps continue to tie it in with Remembrance Day services as they did this year, but so far no firm plans have been announced.
Even if it’s not done to the same extent in Peterborough, it would be great to see the trip back in time idea take off in other markets as well.