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Pembroke Silver Stick Tournament returns as PMC marks 70th anniversary

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PEMBROKE, ONT. -

After being benched for a year due to the pandemic, the Pembroke Regional Silver Stick Tournament is back for its 36th edition.

The prestigious youth hockey tournament kicked off Friday, and will run every weekend until Dec. 5. During that time, 108 hockey teams and their families from across Ontario will travel to Pembroke, bringing a return to the classic Canadian tradition of a weekend trip away at a hockey tournament.

"Last year was a hard year for all those kids, not being able to get out and get to these tournaments," tournament director Norbert Chaput tells CTV News Ottawa. "It's what they look forward to."

Amanda Barrette made the five-and-a-half hour drive from Sudbury to cheer on her daughter and the Nickel City Sons.

"This is our first tournament," says the goalie mother. "We've been to New Liskeard just for a three game series but this is our first big travel since COVID."

Despite how the score line turned out for the Sons in the Saturday matinee game, Barrette is happy for a return of a full family event.

"Feels great to be honest with you," says Barrette. "The kids are happy. I think everyone on our team is just happy to get some kind of normal back in their life. They're doing well and we're happy to be here."

Chaput says the return of the tournament also provides a huge economic boost to the city nicknamed 'Hockey Town Canada', recalling anywhere from six to ten-million dollars coming in from previous editions.

"Every hotel room in the area is booked solid," says the tournament's director. "We probably, over the four weekends, have 90 teams staying in hotel rooms, eating in restaurants, so it's a big boost to the economy here in Pembroke. I would say probably the biggest boost over the year for Pembroke."

The happy return also falls in line with a major anniversary at the city's arena, with the Pembroke Memorial Centre marking 70 years in the community on Sunday.

"It was opened November 14th, 1951; an exhibition game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Pembroke Senior Lumber Kings," says Jamie Bramburger, play-by-play voice of the Pembroke Lumber Kings.

The Pembroke Memorial Centre in Pembroke, Ont. opened 70 years ago, on Nov. 14, 1951. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)

The fabled hockey barn seats roughly 2,200 spectators and still has some original seating around the bowl. Bramburger recalls watching many hockey greats get their start at the PMC, such as former Ottawa Senators general manager and coach Bryan Murray, and current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. But over the 70 years, the PMC has donned many different uniforms for the community, whenever called upon.

"It was a vaccination clinic for COVID-19," Bramburger recalls of its recent history. "It's hosted concerts, trade shows, and graduation ceremonies."

So while the scoreboard may show winners and losers when the buzzer sounds this weekend, there will only be smiles and appreciation at the PMC this weekend.

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