Photos by Pearl Dixon – Peterborough Petes
Are the Peterborough Petes more than just a hockey team?
This a question that is not often asked because the answer is obvious to anyone who lives in Peterborough. The Petes are more than an Ontario Hockey League team to this city and more than just something to do on a Thursday night.
A new season has begun for the Peterborough Petes. Last year they finished their season in the second round of the playoffs against the Oshawa Generals.
This year they hope to go further than the previous season, which may be difficult as they are losing some of their most prominent players, including top prospect Nick Richie who is still at NHL training camp after being drafed 10th overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
Other highly touted prospects, including Cornel, Boland, Betzold, and Masin also attended at NHL training camps in the off-season, but have fortunately returned to play for the Petes this year.
Despite this loss, head coach Jody Hull is confident that with the returning players and those gained in the OHL entry draft, the Pete’s will have a good season.
The Petes have been a part of the city of Peterborough for over fifty years. That is the longest continually operating team in the OHL.
They have a rich hockey history that started in October of 1956, at their first game ever. They started as the TPT (Toronto-Peterborough Transport) Petes when they were the farm team for the Montreal Canadians.
In 1966-1967 they became their own organization as the Peterborough Petes Hockey Club. For the first time ever Peterborough had a team that their entire community could get behind. This team not only put Peterborough on the map—it brought the community together.
The history alone is enough reason to show the importance of this team to Peterborough, and what it has done for this town. The organization has graduated a countless amount of NHL hockey players including such prominent stars Bob Gainey, Steve Yzerman, Larry Murphy, and Mickey Redmond.
The past coaches of the Peterborough Petes are a part of the Petes Tradition as much as the players are. Among those is Roger Neilson, who is possibly the most famous Petes coach, and served as the head coach for the longest time in their history.
These players and coaches were at one point in time Peterborough citizens and they all experienced the power of the Petes community.
Our current head coach of the Petes, Jody Hull, is among those former players who played for the Peterborough Petes and went on to the NHL.
“It was great because the fans are knowledgable, the people within the community were very approachable, it’s a small-town family feel”, he said when asked what is was like to be a Peterborough Pete.
Hull came to Peterborough to play for the team, and went on to play fourteen years in the NHL. During his pro career he made Peterborough his home in the summers. He then came back to the community and has been a part of the coaching staff for the past eleven years.
Simply put, these players have a sense of importance around the city—not because they are local celebrities, but because the team is important to the community as a whole.
Another local citizen who is a former Pete is the owner of Hobies sporting goods store, Gary Holbrook. He is one of the few players who were born in Peterborough and developed through the local leagues.
Many players come to play for the Petes and make Peterborough their home after their playing time, but not many called Peterborough their home before they were a Pete.
Holbrook played for the team when they were the still called the TPT Petes and owned by the Montreal Canadians. He has seen in person the history of the Petes and the team’s effects on this community.
“They were good to the players”, Holbrook said of the community’s acceptance of the players. Holbrook, like Hull said that the citizens treated the team like a part of a big family.
The Peterborough Petes affect the community on a large scale, as well as on a small scale, however, and this is no less important.
The Petes hockey club has always been involved in minor hockey. The minor hockey association is not only important to the Petes because they are fans, but because they are future Petes.
Realistically, few of these young players will actually play for the Petes, but the dream of playing for them is an important aspect.
Going to see these players play for their hometown team gives them hope of their dreams coming true. In many games you can see the young minor hockey players occupying the ice during intermission.
Charity work is an important aspect of this hockey club. Whenever their schedule allows it, the team does as much as they can to give back to the community. They have an annual cancer-night game where they raise money for cancer awareness and play a game with the community.
Food-share and blood-donor nights are a couple of other examples of the ways the Petes do their part for the local charities in Peterborough.
In the case of the big picture on how the Petes affect the city and the fans of Peterborough, it is simply through the joy of going to games and having a team to cheer for. It gives citizens something to come together and cheer for as a community.
We can argue with each other about our favourite NHL teams and how the Montreal Canadians are unbelievably better than the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when it comes down to it, we are all fans of the Peterborough Petes because they are our town—they are our team.
Jody Hull said it best, “The Petes are everything to me.” Of the eighty-thousand or so people who live in this city, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of interests, likes, and dislikes. But for the majority of the population a common interest among all of these not-so-strangers are the Peterborough Petes.
Hockey is one of the most popular sports in the world and this is certainly true in Canada. Because of this, many towns and cities have professional and semi-professional teams.
However, it is not necessarily the type of sport that matters but the team that matters. The team is what affects this great community and brings it together.
The Peterborough Petes are more than just a hockey team—they are a means of interconnecting this city. They are good, young hockey players, playing great hockey. And on Thursday nights the community all comes together with this one common interest. Go Petes Go!