The Vancouver Canucks had the night off from Rogers Arena on Tuesday, November 23rd, but a group of miniature Canucks took to the big ice in their place. Eighty initiation and novice level minor hockey players were invited to Rogers Arena to take part in the second Canucks First Strides program of the season, presented by Bayer Contour.
The Canucks First Strides program, with the support of Bayer Contour and BC Hockey, aims to promote the on- and off-ice development of young hockey players throughout the province. Eighty boys and girls, representing minor hockey associations from the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, and as far away as Prince George, were excited to skate on the same ice as their Canuck heroes. Experienced BC Hockey Course Conductors and minor hockey coaches led the excited young players through on- and off-ice activities and games.
The evening kicked off at 5:45pm as Group A made their way onto the ice. Composed of 36 players and 4 goalies, Group A was led through a 75-minute on-ice session to practice their skating and puck-handling abilities. Not far away, Group B participated in an off-ice workshop in the Norm Jewison Press Conference Room before the groups swapped places. Emphasis throughout the evening was placed on teamwork, fair play and making new friends. Donning green and grey Canucks First Strides jerseys, the rosy-cheeked kids could be seen racing down the ice with Canucks mascot, FIN, hot on their heels.
Special guests Guillaume Desbiens and Alex Bolduc added to the excitement as they offered hockey tips and high-fives. The Canucks forwards (who were, to their amusement, briefly mistaken for the twins and/or Roberto Luongo) were more than happy to lend their time at First Strides. Although Desbiens was sidelined with an injury, he quickly attracted a posse of young skaters at the players’ bench while Bolduc made rounds on the ice.
Parents also has an opportunity to participate in a workshop led by BC Hockey Health and Safety Risk Manager, Anne Deitch. Deitch discussed the important role parents play in minor hockey and how they can positively support their growing hockey players.
The evening was a huge success and enjoyed by all those involved. When one pint-size player, Kash, was asked what his favourite part was, he replied, “The hockey part.” Good answer. Players and their parents left Rogers Arena with an unforgettable experience and new friends. The Canucks Centre for BC Hockey would like to thank Bayer Contour and the enthusiastic volunteers who made the First Strides program possible.
For more information about Canucks First Strides and other programs offered by the Canucks Centre for BC Hockey, visit canucks.com/grassroots or call 604-899-7770.