|More than 16,000 students filled Honda Center for the event.
By Matt Vevoda
With the shrieks of more than 16,000 elementary school students cheering on their every move, the Ducks’ Tuesday practice at Honda Center was anything but ordinary.
As part of the seventh annual First Flight Field Trip, students and teachers from more than 115 schools throughout Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties in grades K-8 got a chance to watch the Ducks practice while convening at the arena for an interactive learning program.
|Each student was given a workbook, which they filled in during the event. |
The Ducks invited Southern California schools to participate in the First Flight event at no cost to the schools or students. During scheduled breaks, players on the ice will interact with the students and reveal answers to the questions in their First Flight workbooks, provided to each student one month before arriving at Honda Center. Exhibits enabling students to get a closer look at the elements of math in the sport of hockey will be on display before the on-ice program.
“It’s always a responsibility as an organization and as a hockey club to reach out to our young fans,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s an opportunity for some kids to get a morning to come and watch the Ducks practice. It’s not only hockey but education. You can’t lose at these events.”
| “It’s pretty crazy to see 16,000 kids all jammed into one arena,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “It’s a different kind of loud too. They’re all screaming and yelling and just having fun. It’s fun for us as well as for the kids.” |
While silence normally fills empty stands at Honda Center during a routine team practice, the buzz emanating from students in the seats Tuesday in support of the Ducks was often louder than at games.
“It’s pretty crazy to see 16,000 kids all jammed into one arena,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “It’s a different kind of loud too. They’re all screaming and yelling and just having fun. It’s fun for us as well as for the kids.”
Added George Parros, “It’s a fever pitch out there. I think it’s at that point where it just can’t get anymore louder. It’s pretty ridiculous out there. I’ve never heard the building get louder than these guys.”
After the students were done cheering on the Ducks during their 45-minute practice, the team changed out of their practice jerseys and into their game jerseys to participate in a skills competition. Following a similar format to that of the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, the Ducks (split between two teams – one wearing black home jerseys and the other wearing white road jerseys) tested their abilities in four different events.
|Rob Niedermayer was among the four Ducks to compete in the Shooting Accuracy competition. |
Defensemen Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin of the black team started off the competition by splitting the honors in the Hardest Shot event as each registered shots as 92 miles per hour.
Travis Moen, also of the black team, followed with a win in the Fastest Skater event, as the checking forward raced from the extended goal line to the red line in 5.01 seconds.
While Rob Niedermayer (white team), Scott Niedermayer (black) and Teemu Selanne (white) each hit all four targets in the time allotted in the Shooting Accuracy event, it was the Finnish Flash who did so in the least amount of shots, doing so in five chances.
“It’s always fun to go out there and showcase your skills and have a little fun during practice,” said Parros, who hit three targets during eight chances in the Shooting Accuracy event. “It’s fun to entertain, especially kids, a lot of who play hockey around here. Hockey’s becoming more important around Southern California. It’s really fun to see them get excited about it.”
|Chris Kunitz had one of the more impressive moves in the Breakaway Challenge. |
Judged by a panel of five guests including Television Color Analyst Brian Hayward, the Breakaway Challenge concluded the competition. Tying for the top score (39) in the event were Regina, Saskatchewan natives and members of the black team Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz. In winning the event for the black team, Kunitz had one of the most impressive moves, skating toward the net while flip-flopping the puck atop his stick about chest high, before spinning and taking a shot that unfortunately missed the net. Later Getzlaf picked the puck up behind the net, came around the post and stuffed it in there for his high score.
“I think it’s grown every year, so it’s great,” said Getzlaf of the First Flight Field Trip, which sold out for the first time this year. “I’m happy I’ve been able to be part of the last few.”