It was called Salute to the Troops day at the Marlies game Sunday and the afternoon was given over to the commonplace and the exceptional.
Hockey, played every day in every corner of the country was married with the armed services, whose outstanding mother and fathers, sons and daughters are likewise products of every corner of Canada.
More than 6,756 people were siphoned through the Ricoh Coliseum turnstiles to watch the Marlies play the Abbotsford Heat. The game was broadcast live on Hockey Night in Canada and Hockey Night personality Don Cherrry was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop. Three hundred military personnel were guests of the team and watched the game from premium seats.
“We wanted to see Don Cherry and the veterans who are here,” said Callie McMillan, a hockey mom from Oakville who was at the game with her family.
“We have troops fighting for us right now. It’s part of our culture and I think it’s something all Canadians should be involved in.”
“Our family loves hockey and we support what Don Cherry has brought to the country,” said her friend, Stacy Butler.
“We come seven or eight times a year and we bring hockey teams. It’s affordable and in our kid’s eyes, this is where they dream about playing.”
Said Sgt. Michelle Miller, LFCA Toronto: “It’s just nice to know our efforts are recognized." We’ve never really been looked on as high view and to know we have the support of the country is very important to us.”
Paul Ensinger, MCPL, CFB Borden was at the game with his wife, Carrie Pluck, also a member of the forces and daughters Caitlyn 6 and Brianna 4.
He agreed that events such as Salute to the Troops Day bridges the gap between a grateful public and the people who represent them.
“I think there’s a new appreciation for the forces that I haven’t really seen in the 17 years I have been in forces,” he said.
“I think it’s very important to everyone.”
Newcomers to the game found something to like as well.
“My parents are from India,” said Sandeep Chahal of Mississauga. “They don’t have ice in India. I was born with no ability with skates and a stick but I applaud the guys who have it.
“I found out about hockey by myself. Then I saw some games on television. Now I am here and I like what I am seeing. That’s why I am waving this big number one foam finger."