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Friends for Life
Bob then developed a relationship with the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge, Florida, by running the M&L Hockey camp each summer. Through conversations with the late Tim Szymula, Rick Ninko (owner of the Iceplex), and Gary O’Neil (coach and president of the Rockledge hockey organization), the idea of creating a youth exchange program was born.
Each year, Canadians and Floridians get together in February, alternating sites.
The Inaugural Year: On the Bus
The first installment of the program occurred in 2006, when a group of 11 families traveled to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec. Hotel rooms went used as the families ended up staying at their host's homes for most of the weekend. As was the goal, long term relationships were created and the quote of the weekend was from one of our youngsters:
"We're not friends for life, we're family for life."
Year Two: Little Snowbirds
In 2007, many of the same Canadian families who hosted the Florida families in 2006 visited Brevard County. This time, most didn't even book hotels, as all knew that the doors of our homes were open. The Canadian families enjoyed our fine weather, met our most famous reptile up close, and played beach hockey. Also during this installment, the city of Rockledge stepped up to get involved by initiating a "sister city" relationship with Ste. Anne de Bellevue.
Year Three: On Frozen Pond
In 2008, the Floridians returned to Quebec, this time in the depth of winter to really see what hockey weather is like. The weekend included: an outdoor night game, a day of pond hockey and sledding at a farm in the Laurentians, and snow, snow, snow.
Year Four: Skate and Surf
February 2009 brought the Canadian families south again for a warm weekend of airboating, swimming, playing beach hockey and driving on world-famous Daytona Beach.
Year Five: Winter Wonderland
In our fifth year, U.S. families returned to Montreal for a weekend of winter fun, highlighted by outdoor hockey and a day of sledding and playing in the snow.
Year Six: On the Road Again
In our sixth year, families from the Montreal area escaped the February cold to see gators and palm trees and spend some time at the beach.