Exchange students get some hockey culture
PORT McNEILL—After embarking on a whale-watching tour from historic Telegraph Cove, then viewing the cultural icons of the Kwakwaka’Wakw First Nations on display at Alert Bay’s U’mista Cultural Centre, a group of 29 foreign exchange students then got a serious taste of Canadian culture.
They attended their first hockey game.
North Island residents entering Chilton Regional Arena for the home season opener of their rep midget hockey team were surprised — and a little bemused — when several vans and SUVs pulled up to disgorge more than two dozen teens, chattering excitedly in a multitude of languages.
“They asked what was happening here, and we told them it was a hockey game,” said Beth Slater of Port McNeill. “Then they asked if it cost money to get in, and we said, ‘No, come on in.’”
That they did, setting up camp in a tight block in the lower rows of bleachers right at centre ice and quickly getting the hang of cheering goals and hits and groaning over near-misses just like the rest of the fans in attendance.
“We’re from the Langley School District, and we’ve got students here from Spain, Brazil, Japan and Germany,” said Lorna Goulet, one of several adult chaperones with the group. “We came up Thursday (Sept. 26) to stay at Telegraph Cove and go whale-watching, and were over in Alert Bay today.”
The hockey game was not on the tour itinerary, but the SD35 group had just returned on the ferry from Cormorant Island and was en route through Port McNeill to Telegraph Cove with several hours to kill when participants noticed all the activity at the arena.
They gave a substantial boost to the modest crowd in the arena for the local North Island Eagles’ game against visiting Cowichan Valley, and proved a hit with the locals when they spontaneously broke into the ‘wave’. The students also were quick to adopt the home team, starting a chant of, “Let’s go, Eagles!” during particularly tense parts of what turned out to be a close, evenly-matched game.
At one point, one of the referees skated over to the glass and tossed over a puck, which the students took turns posing with for photos by their mates.
A few of the youths maintained a common North American pose, head bowed over a smart phone. But most were animated, active and followed the game closely. One girl who had visited Canada before said she had seen Team USA play Team Canada in Toronto previously, but for most it was their first time in person at a hockey game.
After the game, the students were invited on the ice for a group photo with “their” Eagles. Things nearly got out of hand when a few of the students started to slide off down the rink in their street shoes, but Eagles coach D’arcy Deacon and the referees quickly steered them back to the exit.