By Matt Vevoda
The Ducks welcomed more than 15,000 elementary school students to Honda Center on Tuesday for the 12th annual First Flight Field Trip.
Students in grades 3-6 came in droves to the arena for the award-winning program. This year’s theme was, “Mind, Body and Goal,” which helped teach the important connection between the body and brain. The program began in the Honda Center parking lot, where 50-plus exhibits provided an interactive experience for those in attendance.
The day’s festivities then shifted indoors, where students got a chance to see the Ducks up close on the ice. Vice President of Multi-Media and Community Relations Aaron Teats welcomed everybody to the on-ice portion of the field trip, before center Nick Bonino
led the group in the pledge of allegiance.
“When I was a kid, I wish we had done field trips like this,” said Bonino, a Hartford, Connecticut native. “Loving hockey, it would have been a lot of fun. There are so many little things that they learned today. It was pretty cool for all the guys to get involved.”
Just as they normally would have, the Ducks then took part in practice. But the difference was, instead of a handful of media in the stands, they were being watched by thousands of screaming students. After head coach Bruce Boudreau was done putting the team through drills, a skills competition was on tap to close out the event.
“This reminded me of our junior days in Toronto when most of the crowd was all school kids,” Boudreau said. “We’d have Sunday afternoons in Toronto where it was like 50 cents for a ticket. We’d get 10 to 15,000 people. They were all kids screaming like that. It brought back some good memories.”
Split into two teams – the Left Brain (black jerseys) and Right Brain (white jerseys) – the Ducks competed in three different events. The first was “Call Your Shot,” challenging the players on who could get closest to 77 miles per hour (without going over), as well as a standard hardest shot competition. Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank
took home of the accuracy honor with his 72.6 mph attempt, while Ryan Getzlaf
’s 102-mph attempt earned top billing in the hardest shot. Getzlaf also won that event in the recent Skills Showdown last Saturday at the arena with a 99.3-mph effort. Both players were members of the Left Brain, giving that group an early 10-8 lead.
Next up was the “Switch Shot,” an event where players took six shots with their dominant hand and six more with the opposite. One point was awarded for each goal from the player’s normal shot and two points for the opposite. Jason Blake
of the Right Brain won the event with a total of 14 points (6-for-6 left-handed and 4-for-6 right-handed).
The Left Brain maintained a two-point lead though entering the final event, an obstacle course. Four players from each team competed in the culmination of First Flight. The first stage saw Matt Beleskey
(Right Brain) and Nate Guenin
(Left Brain) pick up a helmet and skate down the length of the ice. Luca Sbisa
(Right) and Bonino (Left) then picked up fruit and shot it on top of the goal. Andrew Cogliano
(Right) and Toni Lydman
(Left) followed by stick-handling a melon down the ice. The last stage featured Rod Pelley
(Right) and Cam Fowler
(Left) completing a math problem at mid-ice, with the answer being the amount of pucks required to shoot into the goal. At the end, it was Fowler and the Left Brain that won the event worth 10 points and the skills competition by a score of 30-22.
“It was really fun,” Bonino said. “We had to flip apples and they had to stick-handle a big melon. It was different, but the kids loved it and that is what matters.”
About the First Flight Field Trip
The First Flight Field Trip is a unique educational experience that transforms Honda Center into an interactive classroom. As the Anaheim Ducks practice on the ice, students refer to a workbook which explores how the team prepares to play hockey at an elite level. Children learn how much sleep players require for peak performance, why “brain food” helps with the ability to memorize hockey plays, and how players work to improve reaction time on the ice. Both live and taped segments from Ducks players and coaches appear on the HondaVision scoreboard during practice, which help to reveal answers to workbook questions.
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’s curriculum has been designed to meet the state's educational content standards for grades 3-6. Completely free to participating schools and students, First Flight is a facet of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education) Program which was developed in 2005. The goal of the program is to promote and cultivate healthy living and academic excellence to all students in Southern California.
For more information regarding the First Flight Field Trip, please visit DucksScore.com