BISHOP’S FALLS, NL – It was emotional. It was moving. It was fun.
It was perfect.
On Saturday at the Pat O'Reilly Memorial Arena in Bishop’s Falls, Ethan Penney’s No. 8 was officially retired. His jersey will be showcased near the entrance of the rink with a light placed over it to keep it brightly lit for years to come.
Penney lost his life Aug. 14, 2017 as a result of an ATV accident. The 14-year-old was a proud member of the Bishop’s Falls Express and was finishing his final year of bantam hockey.
On Saturday, the community came together to remember and honour Ethan during a hockey tournament in his name.
“It’s very overwhelming,” said Ethan’s mom, Christa, sitting in a dressing room her son used so many times before.
Next to Christa was Ethan’s brother, Logan, wearing an Ethan Penney Memorial Tournament hoodie.
The soft-spoken 11-year-old was certainly a proud little brother on Saturday, and happily shared memories of his big brother Ethan.
“Seeing all these people here, it makes me feel so proud,” he said. “A lot of people really cared about my brother, and they loved him a lot.”
The tournament featured an atom and midget division. Bishop’s Falls, Grand Falls-Windsor, Bay d’Espoir and New-Wes-Valley competed in the atom division, while Bishop’s Falls, Bay d’Espoir, Lewisporte and Twillingate competed in the midget event.
Competing in hockey tournaments was something Ethan enjoyed immensely. Christa will cherish the memories of watching her son compete on the ice and lights up with pride when talking about how Ethan overcame a hearing impairment to play a sport he loved.
“It was just something special to see him out there,” she said. “Where he was deaf and had those cochlear implants, we were kind of afraid something would happen, like him falling and hitting his head.”
Not only did he overcome and simply play, his mom said he started to get a little more aggressive on the ice.
She chuckled when recalling some games and smiled when remembering exactly how much Ethan started to enjoy the more physical side of the game.
“We thought he was going to be a little scrapper,” said Christa, looking at Logan. “He was the type of player that, if you tripped him, he remembered your number. But he enjoyed it so much…I can see him sitting in the penalty box with a smile on his face.”
Rob Temple, president of the Bishop’s Falls Minor Hockey Association, also has fond memories of Ethan, especially his ear-to-ear grin.
“His smile,” said Temple, when asked what he remembers most about Ethan. “If I didn’t see him on his quad I would see him on the ice. He was a dog for it…just wanted to score goals all the time.”
Along with being known for a huge smile and overcoming his hearing impairment, Ethan did something else that will make a lasting impact on his brother. Along with memories of watching hockey together and cheering for their favourite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, Ethan also taught Logan a skill that might come in handy again.
“He couldn’t hear a lot, so he helped me learn sign language,” said Logan.
The tournament will be an annual event in Bishop’s Falls. This inaugural event ended on Sunday with the home teams winning gold in their respective divisions. The Midget Express defeated the Bay d’Espoir Blizzard 4-2, and the Atom Express defeated the Blizzard 5-2.