The temperature was 30 degrees below zero when five men from the Cayman Islands stepped out onto a frozen pond just outside of Plaster Rock in New Brunswick, Canada to play a game of ice hockey.
Cayman Breakaway are easy to spot in their brightly coloured team uniforms, adorned with the Cayman Islands flag and stingray logo. As the Breakaway endured the bitter cold, it was some consolation that their team colour this year was teal-turquoise, closely resembling the Caribbean Sea.
For the past nine years, long-time residents Bill Messer, Joe Stasiuk and Norm Klein have represented Cayman with pride in an international ice hockey tournament. Tim Derksen joined the team in 2011. Ice hockey isn’t the first sport most people think about when you mention the Cayman Islands, but for the town of Plaster Rock, Cayman Breakaway is a household term.
Town folk know the Breakaway guys by name and their kids can point out the Cayman Islands on a map. It is always a treat to see the Plaster Rock kids clambering for their chance to carry the Cayman flag during the tournament’s opening ceremonies.
This year the tournament was held in early February. Temperatures were so cold that the traditional opening ceremonies took place at an indoor ice rink instead of the usual outdoor frozen lake venue.
Day one of the tournament saw the Breakaway take to the ice at 9pm and begin their scoring and winning streak. With a final score of 32-10, the Breakaway were off to a great start.
The Breakaway were back on the ice for two games on day two. Temperatures were much more pleasant at only minus 15 degrees. Game two saw the Breakaway a little timid as they faced a formidable opponent from the previous year where the Breakaway lost in the closing seconds of the game. Not so this year – the Breakaway posted a solid 14-12 win. Confidence regained, the Breakaway never flinched in game three, scoring five goals in the first five minutes and coasting to a 20-3 victory.
Day three saw warmer temperatures and two more games for the Breakaway. Game four was a match-up against long-time opponent, the Montreal Lagers. The Lagers folded under the Breakaway’s relentless offence and the Breakaway came out with an 18-7 victory. A half hour later, the Breakaway played Game five, winning easily with a final score 28-8.
For the first time ever, the Cayman Breakaway finished the round-robin tournament without a loss posting a clean 5-0 record and officially ranked 18th out of 120 teams. The team scored the second most number of goals over the five games and for only the second time in nine years, qualified for the playoff round of the championship.
While the Breakaway did not make it to the final round of playoffs, everyone was thrilled of the accomplishment made by the boys from Cayman. Following this year’s tournament, a few hours after the last goal has been scored and the trophies handed out, the Cayman Breakaway customarily thank the town’s volunteers by serving up a hot dinner.
This year, the team also handed out rum cake, compliments of our friends at Tortuga. Tournament organiser Danny Braun was also presented with a Cayman Breakaway hockey sweater, which will be displayed in Plaster Rock’s Welcome Centre.
Incidentally, a Cayman Breakaway sweater was inducted into the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 and can be seen at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.