For the Westside Bantam Warriors January 17th was not just any ordinary Sunday. The DANONE “Skate with the Canucks” contest winners received a once in a lifetime opportunity to join the Vancouver Canucks on the ice for the annual Canucks Superskills. The smiles could not be erased off their faces all day as they met and skated alongside their idols.
The players, coaches and parents travelled down from the Okanagan Valley to GM Place for this unique experience. The Warriors arrived at 11am filled with excitement and anxiousness of how the next 4 hours would unfold. The players were taken down to the dressing rooms most currently occupied by Sidney Crosby and Alexandre Ovechkin. Once dressed the players were in for a surprise as the entire Vancouver Canucks team joined them for a pre-event briefing session. The players were unable to contain their excitement as coach Tom Sloan recalls.
“When the Canucks walked into the dressing room our boys got that innocence back to the point that some were in tears; the smiles, the looks on their faces, the giddy excitement. It brings back why we're all so involved with hockey.”
After a few moments of nervousness the Warriors immediately started to absorb the experience. Canuck players were quick to show the boys that they were just as excited to have them share in the experience. Connor Sloan and Alex Fraser summed it up for the Warriors team.
“We were so impressed with the friendly, outgoing and positive attitude of all the Canuck players. They treated us like fellow hockey players, not kids. Talk about inspiration. The Canuck players really made us feel like we was part of their team.”
Once the two teams were introduced it was time to take the ice, in front of 18,000 screaming fans. Each player was individually introduced to the packed stadium and the energy was overwhelming as the boys stepped onto the ice. The Canucks and Warriors were divided into two teams, Team White and Team Blue, and competed in head to head battles for fastest skater, hardest shot and other events. This opportunity of a lifetime was not taken for granted by Westside players. Kohl Bell, of Team Blue explains the thrill of being on the ice with the Canucks.
“Its was the highlight of my life and I know I will never forget it, in a million life times you would never be able to do what we did it was unbelievable! Being able to sit right beside the top hockey players in the world was incredible, hearing all those screaming fans, stepping out onto the ice, hoping that one day this will be your home ice and all these fans are here for you, that was the best feeling in the world and I thank the team and staff so much.”
In the end it was Team White taking the 15-13 win over Team Blue, but to the Warriors it didn’t matter who won, as this was an experience that will last them a lifetime.
The “Skate with the Canucks” contest was open to all registered BC Hockey teams currently playing PeeWee, Bantam or Midget hockey. Teams had to either purchase a DANONE product or submit a short essay detailing their favorite Vancouver Canucks hockey memory. The winning team was chosen at random from over 250 entries.
Net proceeds from the Superskills event go to the Canucks for Kids Fund, the NHLPA Goals & Dreams Fund, KidSport BC, the Britannia Hockey Academy, and the Boys & Girls Club Hockey Program.Story by Leah Peden, Canucks Centre Student Associate