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Ducks Perform in Front of 15,000 Students at First Flight Field Trip

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks hosted close to 15,000 kids for the 11th annual First Flight Field Trip at Honda Center.

By Matt Vevoda

For the second time in the last 24 hours the Ducks performed in front of a packed house at Honda Center. And while this afternoon’s crowd may not have been louder than the one there for last night’s game vs. the Kings, it was certainly higher-pitched.

Taking a break away from their normal practice routine, the Ducks hosted close to 15,000 kids for the 11th annual First Flight Field Trip at Honda Center. The award-winning program turns the arena into an interactive classroom, where students (grades 3-6) study math and science concepts seen in the game of hockey. This year’s program was entitled “The Heart of Hockey”, with lessons on how important nutrition is to players’ training.

As the club practiced on the ice, the students navigated their ways through a workbook handed out prior to the event. Live and taped segments with the Ducks helped further explain the concepts to the students. Exhibits were also on display through the premises.

“It was great to see the kids out there,” said Dan Sexton, who led the arena in the national anthem at the start of the event. “They were having fun and brought a lot of energy to our practice today.

“It is the least we can do to play our part in the community. I was thinking at the beginning of practice, how cool it would have been to do this at their age. I would have loved it. Missing school and being able to go to a hockey rink, what is better than that?”

At the completion of practice, the students were treated to a skills competition and that only made their ear-piercing cheers louder. As is customary in the event, the Ducks were split into two teams (Black and White) and the arena was divided into cheering for one of those groups.

The first of four events was the hardest shot competition and after eight players gave their best efforts, it was defenseman Luca Sbisa’s 96 mile-per-hour shot that claimed first place to put Team White out to an early 8-6 lead. Bobby Ryan (93 mph) and Sheldon Brookbank (92 mph) finished in second and third place.

“It was fun day for us too, getting to go out there and do something we normally don't do in the skills competitions,” Sbisa said. “You appreciate it and do it for all those kids. It was really loud in there. The guys warned me because it was my first time. I couldn’t believe it.”

Next up was the rapid fire competition, where the Ducks had 15 seconds to fire 10 pucks from the goal at one end of the ice to the other. Todd Marchant of Team Black reigned supreme in the event, connecting on eight of his tries. But Team White remained in front by a slim 16-14 margin as Sexton and Chipchura (both on White) tied for second with four goals apiece.

The third competition was shooting accuracy and nobody would top Team Black’s Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks captain hit each of the four targets in 9.7 seconds. Corey Perry (white) and Cam Fowler (black) each hit four out of five for second and third.

Team Black sat in front 24-20 entering the final competition of the event, a relay race which had a bit of a twist to tie in the theme of nutrition. Sexton and Sheldon Brookbank began by racing to one end of the ice. Ryan and Chipchura then raced from there back with a grocery bag in tow. Sbisa and George Parros then flipped fruit from their sticks into those bags. Once all the fruit was in the bag, the players raced back.

The final leg of the race consisted of Fowler and Brandon McMillan stick-handling an orange through cones and the winner being the player who put his orange in the net first from there. It appeared Fowler had done so first to give Team Black the victory, but it was noted that he shot the orange too early (he was supposed to cross the extended goal line and then shoot) and the 40-24 win was given to Team White.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone in attendance from the abundance of screaming students to the players, fun was had by all.

“It feels even better after all the guys on Team Black were celebrating their win because they felt they won,” said Sbisa with a laugh. “Cam didn't really play by the rules, so Team White won the game. It was a fun day for everyone.”

Said Sexton, ““It's not something you're going to see a lot of NHL hockey players doing, flipping fruit into each other's bag.  You do it for the kids. We tried to have fun with it.”
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