I know it’s cliche, but what’s a more Canadian experience than the 4 a.m. pilgrimage to the hockey rink?
The cold, metallic hum of the lights drowned only by the piercing scream of the whistle. Gulping down your hot chocolate and stuffing what is left of your boston cream donut into your mouth as whichever parent was unlucky enough to lose rock-paper-scissors that morning ties your skates up and makes sure your helmet is on snug.
Many of us grew up with this experience. Some are at the point now where they’re continuing on the tradition and taking their own kids for their early-morning practice. Others never stopped.
We were recently lucky enough to have the Vancouver Canucks Alumni Association in Town to play not one but two games against the hometown Smithers Flyers.
Some $50,000 was raised for the Smithers Minor Hockey Association and the games were an incredible experience for all involved. I mean, it’s not exactly every day you get to have a bunch of NHL celebrities in town. Even in a place as lucky as Smithers it only happens bi-annually with the celebrity golf tournament — or does it?
What is a celebrity? Oxford Dictionary defines it as a famous person, and I think most of us would agree.
And while the Canucks alumni are all certainly celebrities on the national stage, I think it’s also important to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate about all the local celebrities who compromise our own little northern community.
Because to a young aspiring hockey star at a Steelheads hockey game there is little difference between Dave Babych and any of the Steelheads players. They are, to the three-foot-six child looking on from the bleachers, both larger than life.
Coming from Toronto one of the first things I realized when I came to Smithers is how much I took the nightlife in the big city for granted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert, but having the option to go out for a nice IPA on a Friday night is always a nice option. Luckily I can do that here.
But for someone who, while I was in university, would have a couple of drinks and go out to watch our hockey team play every once and a while with my friends I was a little disappointed to move here and find out Smithers had lost it’s hockey team over a year prior.
I’ve already written about how municipal services and amenities are the lifeblood of any rural community, and team sports are no exception.
Just like a kid can watch John Wayne on the big screen and be inspired by his persona, it’s our local teams and clubs that create idols and local celebrities for kids to look up to and learn from.
This is not to underscore the incredible feat of bringing down some of the greats that have graced the Canucks over the past half century.
It’s just that, while NHLers get recognized as celebrities everywhere they go, it’s the local cornerstones of our community who often go unnoticed. The ones who, just like those parents taking their kids to early-morning practice, spend countless hours out of their day because they know how important hockey and a sense of community is to a small town like ours.
So as the team takes off its skates up and gets ready for the off-season (how many towns of 5,500 have a skating rink AND a golf course) let me just say, to everyone who volunteered their time, skills or money to make the Smithers Steelheads (or for that matter, the Hazelton Wolverines — we haven’t forgotten about you guys) a possibility: thank you.
It’s easy to take these things for granted, but in truth they are the icing on the rink that makes our community great.
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