By Kyle Shohara
Although the Ducks don’t resume play until Friday, they got a healthy dose of home ice advantage as they practiced in front of more than 14,000 students in grades 3-6 at the 14th annual First Flight Field Trip at Honda Center.
Students from as far away as the High Desert and Imperial Valley converged upon Honda Center for the award-winning program that included a day of education and hockey, with this year’s theme entitled “Cool Like Ice.”
The field trip was divided into two parts: The “Playground” segment took place from 8-10:30 a.m. in which children experienced the different properties of ice through interactive exhibits in the Honda Center parking lot.
The day’s activities then shifted indoors for the “classroom” portion of the field trip, giving students an opportunity to watch the Ducks practice and compete in a skills competition. Split into two teams – Team Black and Team White – the Ducks took part in three different skills competition events.
The first was a Farthest Shot competition, in which players from each team tried to score a goal from the other end of the rink. Led by Francois Beauchemin’s flawless performance (he scored on both opportunities), Team Black jumped out to an 8-3 lead after the first round.
Next up was the shootout competition, during which Team White narrowed the deficit on goals from Matt Beleskey, Bryan Allen and Mark Fistric. Team Black had goals from Beauchemin and Kyle Palmieri, but their lead quickly shrunk to 16-14.
The final competition was a 2-on-2 neutral zone scrimmage. Goaltenders Frederik Andersen (black) and Jonas Hiller (white) were stationed in front of nets set at each blue line as the 10-minute scrimmage reached high levels of intensity. In the end, it was Patrick Maroon and Mathieu Perreault who scored for Team Black, giving them a 20-19 victory in the skills competition.
Team Black’s Ben Lovejoy gave insight on how the teams were chosen. "The two goalies were general managers in the locker room before we went on the ice,” he said. “They were picking teams. It’s always a bit sensitive because you don’t want to be the last one picked. But, Freddie [Frederik Andersen] was able to pick different guys with different skill sets.”
Lovejoy, now a two-time participant in the First Flight Field Trip, says this event is a great opportunity for players to serve as role models.
“These kids are able to come into Honda Center and watch some very talented, well-spoken and intelligent role models play and live their lives at the peak of their profession,” he said. “Every kid out there can come watch some good human beings on the ice, and could do way worse than using one of these Anaheim Ducks as a role model.”
First-time First Flight participant Mark Fistric says practicing in front of 14,000-plus kids makes for quite the unique experience.
“It was loud, real loud,” he said with a laugh. “Today was a nice, light day, and a lot of fun to practice in front of the kids. It was a great morning. Every time you can have that kind of atmosphere for practice, it makes it a lot easier to go through it.”
And for Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, events like these bring him back to his childhood years.
“I think it’s a great outing,” he said. “When I was in grade school, any time you had a chance to go to a field trip, and a cool one to a hockey arena, it was a lot of fun.
“Our guys here do a great job making sure it’s an interactive type of thing and the kids are having fun. It’s all good.”TEAM BLACK
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. 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.