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My F1rst Game

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Six-year-old Mackinley Whalen was out grocery shopping with her mom April last October when the inquisitive youngster started asking questions about why it rains so much in Vancouver.

April explained that while it used to snow during the winter when they lived in Sudbury, Ontario, it rains in Vancouver.

“So that means it’s winter right now?” asked Mackinley.

“Almost,” replied April.

“Then where’s hockey?” quizzed Mackinley.

The look on Mackinley’s face was a mix of confusion and sadness. There’s no explaining a lockout to a six-year-old, but it wasn’t necessarily hockey Mackinley was all of the sudden missing, it was the connection with her father.

Mackinley uploaded her sentiments to YouTube urging the lockout to end.

Patrick, her dad, works in the mining industry in Saskatchewan and is away from home for 28 days at a time before coming home for two weeks. That’s tough on any family and while Mackinley misses her dad, whenever the Vancouver Canucks are on TV, she watches it knowing her dad is watching it as well.

When Patrick is home, father and daughter cuddle up on the couch to watch the Canucks play. “We drink pop and eat chippies, I like the hot ones,” said Mackinley.

Mackinley, Pat and April were all in attendance at Rogers Arena in early February to watch the Canucks thump the Calgary Flames 5-1 as part of the Canucks My First Game program. It was the experience of a lifetime for the now seven-year-old.

“I miss my dad when he’s away,” she said softly. “Being here is special.”

That’s been the sentiment shared with every My First Game honouree this season.

As of March 26th, five Canucks fans have won the opportunity to take part in the My First Game program, an initiative providing passionate supporters with the chance to attend their first ever live Canucks game at Rogers Arena.

Canucks fans of all ages, province wide, who have never been to a live game before are eligible to win; to be selected as a winner, applicants must submit a 500 word essay on why a nominee wants to come to see their Canucks play live.

The winners have varied so far, but they all now share the common bond of having watched the Canucks in person.

Tommy Tran (right), a grade 10 student at Britannia Hockey Academy, credits hockey with keeping him in school. He gives back by mentoring younger hockey players through the Education Reaching Out Program. Tran watched Vancouver’s home opener against the Anaheim Ducks.

Special Olympian Tassy Groumoutis (left), who will be competing in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2013 Special Olympics of BC Summer Games in Langley, saw the Canucks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on February 1st.

As mentioned, McKinley Whalen watched the Canucks douse the Calgary Flames on February 9th; snuggled between her parents she cheered on Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo, despite neither of them being in the line-up that night.

At 72-years-young, Orville Thomas (right) never misses a Canucks game on TV at the Brock Fahrni Pavilion, a catholic faith-based care provider in Vancouver. He’s been the talk of the home since taking in the Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes on February 26th.

Six-year-old Clara Howorth (left) learned how to sing O Canada by watching Canucks games and she sang loud and proud on March 19th when Vancouver beat St. Louis 3-2. Nominated through the Canadian Cancer Society, Clara, a grade one student, lives in Port Coquitlam and cheers for Kevin Bieksa like no one else.

If you or someone you know deserves to be the next My First Game winner, submit an application here.

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