Skating for the Kyle Cup
Kyle Cup carries on tradition of shinny hockey glory
For older hockey players who don’t necessarily get in as many skates as they once did in their youth, the chance to makes some plays on a crisp ice surface makes for a welcome event. Guys from Harbour Grace and Riverhead meet up each year over the holidays for a fun and friendly game of shinny hockey, playing for the coveted Kyle Cup.
Over the course of an hour or so, a group of men who are all too familiar with each other’s skills on the ice will take a crack at claiming hockey supremacy.
On one side, there’s Da River, a team made up of players who call Riverhead home. Then there’s the North Side Stars, featuring guys who grew up east of the Irving gas station in Harbour Grace.
Smack dab in between Riverhead and Harbour Grace sits the S.S. Kyle, and that old ship serves as the namesake for the Kyle Cup. That’s what these guys play for in the annual game of shinny hockey.
It’s become a late-December tradition for close to 30 years, and Kenny Hunt has been a part of it more often than not, barring injury.
“The last couple of years I haven’t been playing it because of injuries,” admits Hunt, who had to sit out this year.
“We try to keep it old school as best we can. There’s lots of new blood and young blood wanting to play this game.”
He describes the Kyle Cup as “a friendly game of shinny” built on the rivalry between folks from Riverhead and Harbour Grace. It always happened at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, though the game played Dec. 28, 2016 took place on the ice surface of the brand-spanking-new Danny Cleary Community Centre in Harbour Grace.
“We were companions, but when it came to sports we were sort of rivals,” said Hunt, who always suits up for Da River.
There have been some notable combatants over the years. Stanley Cup champion Daniel Cleary has on occasion laced up his skates for Da River, and Cory Crocker has skated with the Stars.
The annual game of shinny hockey is one of many typically taking place over the Christmas holidays. The CHVO Cup pits Harbour Grace against Carbonear and has a history that’s decades old, and there’s a Boxing Day skate that’s become an annual tradition for quite a few years.
We were companions, but when it came to sports we were sort of rivals. Kenny Hunt
The game is usually played on some date between the 27th and 29th day of December. It’s only within the last 10-15 years that players have actually had a piece of hardware to vie for. It was Kenny himself who provided the trophy.
“That was actually my idea,” he explained. “We had a trophy just kicking around from a previous league, and I took it, brought it into St. John’s and got it restored and shined. I just put some pictures of the Kyle around the trophy and made up the placard.”
With many of the players having children of their own playing hockey, these days the group will book an extra hour of ice-time. They’ll have a game with the kids to start things off prior to playing for the cup.
Once the game is finished, everyone heads to Rod Reynolds’ house for an after party. That’s also where the score is filed away in a book Rod keeps in a cupboard.
“The tradition was when you’d go back to Rod’s, he always wrote down the score,” said Hunt. “When Rod first built his house, that’s the only records we have … Prior to that, they’ll argue who won.”
The Kyle Cup generally features players who’ve been there from the start, with a few exceptions.
The Kyle Cup is generally considered to be a friendly game, though the shooters still prefer to see pucks make it to the back of the net.
Players from the 2016 edition of the Kyle Cup pose with the coveted trophy on the ice surface of the Danny Cleary Community Centre in Harbour Grace.