Whether it’s based in purely Maple Leaf pride or etched in stone, there’s something about heading to the rink on a cold January night that feels Canadian.
‘Rink’ means different things to different people. To some people, a rink is what you make after shovelling snow off the pond. Others believe a rink is a frigid old barn with limited seating, excellent fries, and persistent 50/50 sales personnel whose passion for volunteering is surpassed only by their passion for hockey.
By either of those standards, the 3,480-seat Island Petroleum Energy Centre that’s tucked inside Summerside’s Credit Union Place isn’t merely a rink. It’s an arena.
Yet in Summerside, if we’re being honest, nobody ever refers to the home of the Summerside Western Capitals as the Island Petroleum Energy Centre. At Credit Union Place – itself always referred to as CUP – there are two ice surfaces: the Cold Rink, recently titled as the Gerard Gallant Arena, and the Warm Rink, known officially as the Island Petroleum Energy Centre.
It’s in the Warm Rink on Saturday, January 21st, that the Summerside Western Capitals are hosting the Campbellton Tigers in Maritime Junior Hockey League action. We decided to drive to this distinctly Canadian experience in something distinctly Canadian.
And now for something distinctly Canadian: A 2023 Honda CR-V Sport.
Honda Canada has actually been building CR-Vs in Alliston, Ontario, since 2011. You may consider Honda a Japanese company – and it most definitely is – but CR-Vs that are sold in Canada are built in Canada.
In 2022, a particularly poor year for Honda production as the brand succumbed to the supply chain crisis in particularly severe fashion, the southern Ontario facility assembled 108,355 CR-Vs. Nearly 900,000 CR-Vs have been built in Canada over the last half-decade.
This track, though. For the second time in two weeks, Island schools are closed. Before it gets bad, we go get snacks. That’s just what we do. (And gas, before Honda takes away the 2023 CR-V Sport tomorrow.) #pei #stormchips #princeedwardisland #honda #hondacrv #2023hondacrv #winter #winterstorm #snow #winterdriving #trench
Production of the new sixth-generation CR-V began in Ontario at the end of September 2022. The CR-V Hybrid, built and available in Canada for the first time, got underway on October 25, 2022.
A new CR-V is a momentous occasion for Honda.
After more than two decades of Civic sales dominance in the passenger car sector – and on Honda Canada’s sales charts – 2022 was the first year since 1997 that the Civic wasn’t Canada’s best-selling car. Long gone, too, are the days in which the Honda Accord joined other midsize sedans as big sellers.
For example, just before Honda began building CR-Vs in Canada, in 2010, the company sold 1.7 CR-Vs for every Accord. Fast-forward to pre-pandemic 2019 and the CR-V produced 55,859 sales, five times more volume than the Accord generated. In 2022, the ratio shifted to nearly 9-to-1.
Meanwhile, for a third consecutive year, the CR-V in 2022 was Canada’s best-selling vehicle overall.
The CR-V is big business at Honda Canada, or at least it will be once again if production levels can rise to even near-normal levels. In six consecutive years, a streak that began in 2017, the CR-V has been Canada’s second-best-selling SUV/crossover, losing out on the gold-medal position each time to the Toyota RAV4. (Surely it’s not coincidental that the RAV4 is also made in Canada?)
The 2023 Honda CR-V in all its trims
The CR-V Sport, painted for East Coast Tester use in a surprisingly-vibrant-for-Honda shade of blue called Still Night Pearl, represents one of four CR-V trim levels for the 2023 model year.
At the entry point is the LX, with or without $2,800 of all-wheel drive traction, at Honda’s all-in price of $36,884. The $43,584 2023 CR-V Sport is partially a cosmetic upgrade (black 18-inch alloys rather than 17-inchers with wheel covers, body-coloured tailgate spoiler, black roof rails, gloss black grille) but primarily serves to add features: power tailgate, sunroof, and an eight-way power driver’s seat.
The $45,484 CR-V EX-L adds leather, heated rear seats, a 9-inch centre screen, and 8-speaker audio. The biggest change is in the top-spec Touring model where $50,984 buys you a hybrid powertrain, Bose 12-speaker audio, 19-inch alloys, and a 24-percent in average fuel consumption.
Honda CR-V has what it takes for PEI winters
For the purposes of a January evening, we’re interested in the degree to which Honda’s new CR-V is prepped for Canadian winter duty. The CR-V Sport includes integrated remote start, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and proximity access.
It’s January, on an island in the middle of the Gulf in the north Atlantic, and we’ve barely had any snow. But unless drifts block the roads, we generally keep driving, whether it’s fetching groceries in a Telluride or going to work in a CR-V. That’s what Bridgestone Blizzaks are for. (Just so we’re clear, this is nothing. Neither was last Friday, despite the school closure.) #honda #2023hondacrv #crv #crvsport #awd #bridgestoneblizzaks #pei #winter #winterdriving #thehip #tragicallyhip #weather #wintertires
On Prince Edward Island, hockey is serious business
We arrive at CUP in time for the warm-up, grab some sugary snacks, and watch a competitive tilt between two of the MHL’s more consistent teams. Although Prince Edward Island features a major junior hockey team in Queens County, the Charlottetown Islanders, the Western Capitals’ storied history has carved out an unusually strong fan allegiance given typical lower-tier Junior A expectations.
It doesn’t hurt that the Caps buck the typical junior hockey trend – rising and falling in the rankings – by consistently icing a quality team despite the aging-out of top scorers. Summerside currently sits second in the MHL in terms of winning percentage, a strong follow-up to a dominating run (only two OT losses) in last year’s championship-winning playoffs.
Expectations are high, as always, for Summerside’s Junior A team. But there’s not quite as much on the line for the Caps as there is for Honda Canada. Fully aware of elevated customer expectations each time a new CR-V is launched, a surge in pricing only takes those expectations to an even higher level.
Canadian drivers want a lot of value for their $43,584 investment. Then again, it’s hard to put a dollar value on the Canadian component of the CR-V’s appeal.
Sure, the CR-V isn’t exactly as Canadian as junior hockey on a Saturday night or Tim Hortons on a Monday morning. But then again, Honda does build Canada’s CR-V a bit different: if you want a heated steering wheel in the United States, you have to pony up for the top-spec Sport Touring Hybrid. Heated rear seats aren’t even available south of the border.
Now if only they’d put heated seats in the Cold Rink.