Canuck alumni end 2011-12 season with overwhelming reception in BC's central interior
What a way to wind up the season! Not only were the Canuck Alumni involved in a "HockeyTown" parade down the town's main street within minutes of arriving in Mackenzie, 185 km north of Prince George ... they were the parade!
This forestry-dependent town with a population of fewer than 5,000 was the runner-up for the 2011 "Kraft HockeyTown" designation, but that didn't stop the locals from turning out in the hundreds for the next-best thing: a weekend street hockey jamboree, numerous hockey-related community events and a visit from the Canuck Alumni. Thanks to the hard work by local MLA and Provincial Cabinet Minister Pat Bell and Mackenzie mayor Stephanie Killam, your Alumni representatives were made to feel like the centre of attention for the full 24 hours from the moment they flew in on Saturday morning to the time their charter lifted off on Sunday.
Saturday's on-ice festivities started out with an argument between Mark Lofthouse and BJ MacDonald over who should take the opening faceoff and degenerated quickly into Lofty and four of his colleagues 'defecting' to the host women's team, 'Chicks With Sticks.' Returning the favour, the ladies promptly sent five of their players the other way, to even out the gender mix for the opening period ... during which only the women were permitted to record shots on goal. With the Mackenzie hosts leading, 4-3 after 20 minutes, it was time for the locals to send out their male squad, a combined force of police officers, firefighters, ambulance paramedics, conservation officers and assorted additional personnel. In the end, the visitors skated off with a 14-8 victory, despite an obviously well-executed plot by the hosts to grab the two points from the Saturday-night tilt by over-feeding and exhausting their visitors. Lifelong conditioned and practiced athletes that they are, the Alumni were up to the task at hand, despite a pre-game civic reception featuring a healthy lunch ... followed by a post-game autograph session and dinner ... followed by a late-night buffet after watching Chris Higgins give the Canucks an overtime win in Colorado ... then interrupted by only a few hours' precious sleep before a far-too-early Sunday-morning pancake breakfast with the youngsters from the local minor hockey fraternity.
Also making the trek for the coastal visitors were such well-known Canuck faces from the past as Doug Bodger, Eddie Hatoum, Bob Murray, Mike Brown and Dave Babych. The squad was coached by former Canuck captain and Head Coach Orland Kurtenbach; even Rogers Arena announcer John Ashbridge went along for the ride.
Another undefeated season goes into the books for the Canuck Alumni, capped off by a truly warm welcome from yet another of British Columbia's inspired and appreciative communities ... thrilled at the chance to get together and show their civic pride as they play host for an all-too brief visit from a team dotted with some of their long-time hockey heroes.