By Kerry Gwydir
Each moment has been very special for the teams from Harbin and QiQiHar during their visit to the Ottawa Region while playing at the Bell Capital Cup. Yet, Friday could have been the biggest day as the players, staff and billet families met the Islanders at the Corel Centre in the morning and then took in the Senators-Islanders' game in the evening.
"It's the first time I've seen NHL hockey players and an NHL game," said Harbin player Liu Peng said through an interpreter. "They were very nice and signed for us."
The itinerary the players and staff from the two Chinese teams consisted of arriving at the Corel Centre around 10am to watch the morning skates of the Senators and Islanders. And, just prior to the Isles taking to the ice, the players were shuttled onto the ice for a presentation to Ottawa Senators' president Roy Mlakar and G.M. John Muckler. Then, it was some one-on-one time with the Islanders players as Garth Snow, Janne Niinimaa, Rick DiPietro, Alexei Yashin and others stayed for an extended amount of time to meet and sign autographs for the Chinese contingent.
After returning to their billets for the afternoon and enjoying some home-cooked food along with a trip to the bowling alley, both teams returned to the Corel Centre for the evening matchup, which was won by the Senators. The Senators provided three luxury suites for the Harbin and QiQiHar players and staff. Meanwhile, an appearance by Sparky prior to the opening faceoff brought plenty of smiles to the faces of everyone.
As the players took in the game, which was the first NHL game for all, they all were in awe of the size of the building and the speed of the play.
"I think they are amazed at everything that went on," said May Zhou, the Islanders' rep from the team's Harbin office that is traveling with both squads. "They really got excited when the Islanders scored and when there was almost a fight [between Arron Asham and Ottawa's Brian McGrattan]."