Editor’s note: The Cowichan Valley Stormriders had the chance of a lifetime getting to play during the intermission of the Vancouver Canucks game against Minnesota. Following is an account of the experience courtesy of coach Loren Halloran.
The hard work in fundraising paid off. Monday, March 14 was finally upon us. The team met at the hotel for one last equipment check and then headed across the street toward Rogers Arena where they lined up against the wall at Gate 16.
The rules were then given to each player about conduct and safety while inside the arena.
A few minutes later we were escorted to our dressing room. The doors were about 10-feet tall and the shower nozzles were about nine- or 10-feet high, too. We were told that it was because it was the old Vancouver Grizzlies basketball team’s dressing room a few years ago.
We were met and welcomed by Russ Weber, Team B.C.’s head coach. After a pre-game talk Fin, the Canucks mascot, dropped by for a one-on-one visit with the kids.
The kids put their jerseys on and headed out to watch the pre-game skate. They were a few rows up from ice level, at one end of the ice. It was another amazing experience.
The pucks really flew hard off the glass in front of us. Back in the dressing room, the kids got dressed and watched the first period on a TV monitor in the dressing room.
When it was our turn to go we were ushered over to the Zamboni gate and onto the ice. As I crossed the ice surface I looked up and saw an ocean of people in the stands.
Upon reaching the Canuck’s bench I noticed it was as ordinary a bench as any other that the kids had sat on in the arenas of the Cowichan Valley.
The kids had been divided up into two teams to play against each other. They had four minutes of non-stop hockey to play.
The arena was packed and the Prime Minister was in attendance. Fin joined the kids on the ice and at one point drank from Luongo’s water bottle. He even coaxed our goalie into letting him give him what seemed to be an awfully long drink as well.
The Stormriders gave it their all. It was amazing to hear the crowd yell out “OHHH” in unison as the players narrowly missed scoring. The scrimmage was shown live on the huge overhead megatron.
The crowd clapped in appreciation as the buzzer sounded to end the scrimmage. The kids held their sticks high in the air to say thanks to the fans and were quickly ushered off of the ice.
The team hurriedly got changed and joined their parents in the stands. The kids were very popular with the fans in the stands. They kept their jerseys on, got to watch the last two periods of play and saw their idols win the game.
It was great to share the spotlight with former Canuck, Harold Snepsts, who was honoured before the start of the game. Everyone in attendance received a “Harold” pin.
The Canucks had won the game and it was time to leave. On the walk back to the hotel many people commented on how well the team had done. This experience will never be forgotten in the minds of the 7- and 8-year-old Stormriders from the Cowichan Valley.
It was a dream come true.