AJK Highland Travellers hold 33rd annual gathering
BY MARGARET CALDBICK
Staff The Maxville arena parking lot was as slippery as a wet bottle on December 29, but once they got on the freshly resurfaced hockey ice, the AJK Highland Travellers players shrugged off the excesses of the Christmas past to play an exciting 8-6 game, with players landing dozens of shots on net despite stretches of sound defensive play from both teams patrolling their half of the rink.
The contest, an annual reunion game, turned out to be a fastpaced workout featuring the squad’s regular players, retired and honorary, as well as some newer faces, now that a third generation of AJK players is stepping on the ice for the first time.
Among them is forward Nathaniel Van Putten, who comes from a hockey family that includes his grandfather, AJK general manager and left winger John Marjerrison, who stayed off the ice this year due to an ankle injury, instead transitioning to the bench as coach of Team White.
Van Putten, who lives in Monkland and whose van Putten grandparents reside in Apple Hill, is related to the famous fastballplaying Van Putten brothers who distinguished themselves on the diamond and are honoured in the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame.
Nathaniel, a student-athlete at Holy Trinity CSS, recently had some great news, as he’s been recruited by Carleton University to play baseball, starting in September 2019.
There were enough new faces at the game that Merle Majerrison, John’s wife and a loyal supporter of the Travellers for the over three decades since the start, said that she doesn’t recognize all of the new players.
“We’re like a big family, and what’s awesome is that with new generations coming in, I don’t recognize every face. Some I do, like Josh Harrison of St. Andrew’s who is playing with the team, and I know him because his dad, Philip, used to play with John,” said Mrs. Majerrison.
The current AJK lineup keeps busy and in shape playing oldtimer exhibition games, but each year the team keeps a date between Christmas and New Year’s for the team's muchanticipated reunion action.
The Travellers are probably one
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of the longest-surviving teams in the area, this year marking the 33rd year that the annual reunion match has been played.
The AJK Highland Travellers (with several name changes over the years, depending on sponsors) travelled overseas on five different occasions. Their first tour was in 1986, with John Marjerrison organizing the hockey side of things with the British Ice Hockey Federation.
Subsequent tours unfolded in 1988, ’90, ’97, and 2000 – always in the month of March and always for 10 days – bringing the group to Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, and Holland.
Now, after several years of trying to nail down a date to repeat their “trip of a lifetime” to play international hockey, a plan is jelling up fast for the Travellers to return to Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2020.
Refereeing the recent reunion game was sharp- eyed André Paquette, who joined the Travellers flock after playing for an arch- rival team, and now officiates all of their games.
He replaces Jerome Andre, who was the on-ice official at the Thursday night Maxville Oldtimers games for 25 years, travelling with the AJK members on their 1997 overseas tour and officiating games in Scotland.
Mr. Jerome broke his hip on the ice two years ago but remains a keen and honorary member of the Travellers’ family, attending every game.
Coaching the winning Red Team was Andrew Wensink, another Travellers’ stalwart.
Returning in net this year were duelling father- and- son goaltenders, Andrew Arkinstall for the Whites, and across the rink his son, Ryan, for the Reds.
After the game and some good laughs in the dressing room, 20 or so of the players headed for team veteran Kevin Villeneuve’s place. Plans for a 2020 overseas trip were discussed, and according to Mr. Majerrison, the team is keen, but more will be known in the summer.
This year’s reunion game was preceded by a free skate for the players’ children, with kids from ages three and up on the ice. Judging by the agility, balance, and skating talent of some of the young ones, it won’t be long before they develop into the fourth generation of AJK Highland Travellers to pull on the Red and White jerseys.