By Jeremy Lanaway
SEP.17.06It was an early rise-and-shine on the third day of the Canucks main camp in Vernon. The sunrise session hadn't been scheduled for the Canucks, though; it had been scheduled for a group of local minor hockey players who'd won a chance to skate with Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa
, Josh Green, and several members of the team's coaching staff.
From 7:30 to 8:45 a.m., the young players, ranging in age from seven to thirteen, were put through the paces by the Canucks and their coaches. Fin, the team's mascot, bounded onto the ice to a round of laughter and applause, but his tomfoolery was quickly curtailed by the coaches' whistles. After a momentary mope, the orca fell into formation with the rest of the skaters, who warmed up with some light skating before flipping on the blue-lines and practising their backward strides. Some fell down, while others wheeled through the drills with ease.
And all had smiles on their faces.
Finally, the pucks appeared, and the eager upstarts began to work on their passing and shooting, moving through a three-station circuit. The session culminated with three free-for-all scrimmages, one in each zone of the ice. The players chased the pucks to and fro while Ohlund, Bieksa, and Green set them up for mini-breakaways, and helped them get back onto their skates after a fall.
It was clear that the boys and girls weren't going to forget the experience anytime soon.
"I won't forget it, not ever!" insisted seven-year-old Riley Swiscoski as he lined up to get autographs from the NHLers at the end of the session.
When Connor Webb, 7, received his Canucks gift pack in the dressing room, his face lit up. "This is so awesome!" he exclaimed. "I love the Canucks!"