-- Hundreds gathered in the parking lot of the Terrace Sportsplex on Monday morning, the majority naturally eager to get their first look at the Vancouver Canucks
in their town.
Instead, the other team pulled up to the rink first.
"We come in going, 'I bet they're going to be disappointed when we come off the bus,'" New York Islanders
forward Jeff Tambellini
joked. "But we're happy to be here. It's going to be a great game to play in."
Terrace is the fourth town to host the Kraft Hockeyville event. Last year, in Roberval, Quebec, the Montreal Canadiens
were able to travel north and play in front of rabid fans who normally don't get to see them live. It's no different this year in Terrace, where this passionate community gets to host the Canucks -- who play roughly a 16-hour drive to the south.
"There was a big buzz here when we got here this morning," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
"So far, we've had a great reception. Hockey in Canada is part of our culture, and it's part of who we are. Any time that we can show people from outside the big cities the type of people that we have playing this game -- and they're great people -- I think it's worth it. In a small way, for a short amount of time, we're touching the people in this community. I know our guys are enjoying it, and I am also."
Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien
couldn't believe the roar when he and his teammates got off the plane on Monday morning. The Port Hope, Ont., native said he's thrilled to participate in this annual event.
"They were waiting for us at the airport," O'Brien said. "A lot of us come from small towns, and we know how important a community is. It was fun skating in that atmosphere. It seems like a nice little town. Hopefully we can find a way to get a 'W' for the people here."
That certainly would add to what will already be a lasting memory for the folks around these parts. Little do they know that they are providing some NHL players with a few unforgettable moments as well.
"You get the shivers a little bit," said Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell
, a British Columbia native who won't play on Monday night but visited two elementary schools during the afternoon. "It was really cool, to be honest. It's fun for all of us to come out and bring the Canucks to everyone's front seat here today. Terrace is much like where I'm from. It's a bit more remote, so to have two NHL teams stand out on the ice and getting to interact with the people, they're real lucky."
But it's not as if they didn't earn it. Terrace received nearly 2 million votes to win the 2009 Hockeyville competition. On Monday night, the town will celebrate like it never has before. The Canucks and Isles are happy to help.
"Being a kid from Canada, you really realize how important minor hockey is," said Isles center Josh Bailey
, who grew up in Oshawa, Ont. "It's great to give back to these communities."
Islanders coach Scott Gordon
"It was great," he said. "I was saying to everybody that the ice was awesome. I don't recall being on ice that good, and very rarely do you see boards that are that true. It's a nice rink. As I told our players, it means a lot to these people here, and we should treat it as such. It looks like a beautiful place."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.