|Students had plenty of signs displayed to greet their favourite Senators during the Faceoff Fieldtrip at Scotiabank Place.
Just another quiet Monday morning at Scotiabank Place?
More than 6,400 students teamed up to bring a rather festive -- and yes, loud -- atmosphere to the first Senators practice of the week. The occasion was the second annual Faceoff Fieldtrip, an initiative that is part of the Sens@School education program. Buses flowed into the arena parking lot from all across the region, carrying students from 233 classes in 61 schools. And the excitement in the air was palpable.
"It was fun. It was loud," Jennifer Lemire said in describing the bus ride from Orleans with her Grade 4/5 class from Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic School. "They were really excited. You could see a lot of happy faces."
Many of them carried signs into the practice that saluted their favourite players. The noise level stayed elevated throughout the one-hour session, but the Senators were prepared to deal with the unusually loud surroundings. Normally, they'll practice in a virtually vacant arena.
"What we had to do was arrange a few drills ahead of time, because you can't yell them out," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "It was good, though ... a lot of fun. There was a lot of energy in there. It was great to see and the guys liked it."
The thousands of youngster made it abundantly clear the feeling was mutual.
"It's awesome, because I like hockey," said eight-year-old Adam Tilley, a big fan of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
"It's fun watching them," said Brayden White, 9, adding he also enjoyed a "science of hockey" presentation by the Museum of Science and Technology that preceded the practice.
The Faceoff Fieldtrip was launched last season and has quickly gained huge popularity in local schools.
"We doubled our numbers from last year," said Aaron Robinson, the Senators' director of fan and community development. "Hopefully, we can continue to expand it in the future but for now, it's a great turnout."
For Lemire, it was an unexpected bonus when she registered her class for Sens@School.
"I think it's amazing," she said. "I had no idea when I signed up at the (program) website that we would have an opportunity like this. And it's amazing that it's free, too."
Lemire's class was able to cover the costs of busing the students to Scotiabank Place by raffling off the tickets they received and, on top of that, made a contribution to the Lenten Project at Our Lady of Wisdom. She's a big believer in the power of Sens@School.
"We've been doing some reading comprehension with the class and they love it," said Lemire, clad in a Senators fleece top. "My class is half boys and they're in love (with learning) whenever I pull out one of those (lesson plans). They're so excited about it. To use this as a reward for reading ... they just love it."
Robinson said the Faceoff Fieldtrip fits in nicely with the Sens' education goals.
"It's an added benefit to the Sens@School program," he said. "It's really about trying to bring a little bit of fun to learning. It's something a little different for the classes. Some kids never get a chance to come out to the building, so it's an opportunity to get up close and see our team and get a chance to experience, to some degree, what it might be like during a hockey game.
"It's all Canadiana, really."
Mind you, a day away from hitting the books isn't all bad, either.
"We don't have to do work," Sean Adams, 9, said about his morning at Scotiabank Place. "I like it. That's all I have to say."