By Kyle Shohara
One day after playing in front of thousands of screaming fans in a 5-1 win over Nashville at Honda Center, things might have been even louder (definitely higher-pitched) back there for practice this afternoon.
The Ducks welcomed 13,000 elementary school students, as Honda Center was once again transformed into a giant classroom for the 13th annual First Flight Field Trip.
Students in grades 3-6 from 160 schools converged upon the arena for the award-winning program. This year’s theme was “Turn up the Energy,” which explored how players use energy and its properties to outplay their opponents on the ice. The students also learned about stored [potential] energy in objects, including the food Ducks players eat and understanding how [kinetic] energy helps Ducks players with their on-ice skills.
The program began in the Honda Center parking lot, where 45 hands-on exhibits provided an interactive experience for those in attendance.
The day’s activities then shifted inside the arena, where students got a chance to see the Ducks on the ice. Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Tim Ryan welcomed everybody to the on-ice portion of the field trip, before Long Beach native Emerson Etem led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“That was quite exciting, reliving my youth,” said Etem on leading the 13,000 students in the Pledge of Allegiance. “Luckily I remembered it. That was good to start off the day. I was just happy to be a part of it.”
Split into two teams – Team White and Team Black – the Ducks competed in three different skills competition events. The first event was an obstacle course relay, involving players flipping pucks into buckets, sling-shotting big rubber balls across the ice, and a two-man relay across the ice. Team White, featuring Etem, Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano, won the event.
|"It's always a fun day to see all the kids here and see how excited they are. It was a lot of fun out there" -- Matt Beleskey (right) |
“It was a little interesting obstacle course,” said Matt Beleskey of Team Black. “They were kind of showing some skills and different types of energy and how to create it. It was kind of a neat setup.”
Said Etem, “I didn’t expect to be in the relay. I was thinking we were going to go back and forth between cones. And then all of a sudden we’re tossing balls on the other end. It was kind of crazy, threw me off guard for a bit, but it was all fun.”
Next up was the accuracy competition, challenging players to hit four foam discs in a set amount of time. Team White’s Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry went head-to-head with Team Black’s Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Selanne went on to win the competition after successfully hitting three discs before time expired, giving White its second consecutive victory.
With Team White holding a commanding lead entering the final round, Black brought out Beleskey and Francois Beauchemin to go against Luca Sbisa and Kyle Palmieri in the hardest shot competition. All four players reached 90+ mph but it was Sbisa who earned top honors with his 98 mph slap shot. A look of shock graced the faces of his teammates as he skated by with a sheepish grin.
At the end, it was Team White that came out of the skills competition with a 23-6 victory.
“I think it’s great that they come here and enjoy a little different way of learning and hopefully they enjoyed it because we had fun with it, too,” said Cam Fowler. “I was even learning some stuff along the way. There was a lot of useful information and hopefully we did a good job of explaining it to them.”
Added Beleskey, “It’s always a fun day to see all the kids here and see how excited they are. It was a lot of fun out there.”
Both players never got to experience this sort of field trip when they were in school.
“It would be amazing. It would be the highlight of my year, probably, in school,” said Fowler. “Just coming to the rink would be awesome. But just watching practice, obviously being a huge hockey fan growing up helps a lot. It would be a lot of fun, but we never had the opportunity to do something like that so I think it’s pretty cool.”
“It would probably be the best field trip possible for me as a kid,” said Beleskey. “One, you’re getting out of school and two, you’re learning something at a hockey rink.”
About the First Flight Field Trip
Recognized as an educational event for all ages by the California State Assembly and as a contributor to informal education by the National Science Teachers' Association, the First Flight Field Trip is completely free to participating schools and students, and the curriculum has been designed to meet the state's educational content standards for grades 3-6. Representatives from U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez's office, State Assemblyman Tom Daly's office, State Senator Lou Correa's office and Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman will be on hand Thursday to recognize the Anaheim Ducks for its S.C.O.R.E. program. The S.C.O.R.E. program was developed in 2005 with the goal of promoting and cultivating healthy living and academic excellence to all students in Southern California.
For more information regarding the First Flight Field Trip, please visit DucksScore.com.