It was Hockey Weekend in Ashcroft on November 18–19; and hundreds of people packed Drylands Arena to watch a Major Midget game, a charity fundraiser game featuring first responders and other locals, and the Vancouver Canucks’ “Learn to Play” clinic, which saw 29 area children introduced to hockey. About 150 people also attended a “hot stove” session at the Ashcroft Community Hall featuring Canucks’ alumni Dave Babych and Kirk McLean.
Members of the Ashcroft Peewee team were on hand to greet attendees and collect food and cash donations for the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society (SCEFS) food bank. The Peewees are once again taking part in the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup, and have already performed a range of good deeds in the community.
The Major Midget game on the afternoon of November 18 featured the Thompson Blazers (clearly the crowd favourite) against the Greater Vancouver Canadians, with close to 300 people in attendance.
“I’ve worked in the arena for 13 years, and this is the fullest I’ve seen it,” said Ashcroft Village crew employee Josh White. “It’s pretty incredible, and great to see.”
Cara Basil, a councillor with the Bonaparte Band, welcomed everyone on behalf of the neighbouring Ashcroft and Bonaparte Bands. Lewis Kinvig, president of the Thompson Cariboo Minor Hockey Association (TCMHA), thanked BC Hockey for bringing the game to Ashcroft.
Thirteen-year-old Colin Mastin—last seen as “Charlie” in Anne of Green Gables: The Musical—took to the ice to sing an unaccompanied version of “O Canada”, doing a better job than some singers the writer has heard in professional hockey arenas. Then the puck dropped, and the 15- to 17-year-old-players started a high-energy game that went end-to-end and featured something not often seen at the Drylands Arena: hits.
The Blazers jumped out to a 2–0 lead, which they maintained for much of the first period. However, Vancouver made it a one-goal game by the end of the first, and the Blazers—who dominated in the opening frame—faded. They also took a string of penalties, including a misconduct, and the Canadians came back to win the game 4–3.
At 7 p.m. action started again, with a charity fundraiser game that included participants from local fire departments, Ashcroft RCMP, Kamloops Search and Rescue, Kamloops Fire Rescue, TCMHA (coaches and executives), Hockey BC, SCEFS, and local businesses that had donated $100. Some 250 people were on hand to watch the action, which finished with the team wearing NGN Sales and Service jerseys team defeating the team wearing Ashcroft Warriors jerseys 9–2. (The game was also a reminder of how quickly a hockey game can be played when there are no penalties, few icing calls, no ad breaks, and no TV timeouts.)
At noon on Sunday, 29 children aged five to 10 who had never played hockey before took part in the first of a series of “Learn to Play” clinics. Thanks to the Vancouver Canucks, all the participants received new equipment from head to toe, including skates, which is theirs to keep.
Those who had never skated before were on one-half of the rink, aided by a bevy of coaches and assistants—as well as Fin, the Canucks’ mascot—while those who already knew how to skate were on the other half of the ice, coached by Babych and McLean. As the eager players moved from the bench to the ice, more than one spectator was heard to say “This is awesome.” Afterwards McLean praised the progress of the players, saying that the difference between the first minute and the last of the session was “amazing”.
During the hot stove session, Babych and McLean spoke about their hockey experiences, from first playing as kids to advancing through the junior system to making it in the NHL. Both men were articulate and gracious, acknowledging how fortunate they were to be able to play hockey at the highest level. McLean said he had a wonderful experience playing for the Canucks; so much so that he has made his permanent home here, and is proud to be a west coast guy. Both men answered questions, then autographed everything from Canucks jerseys to Canucks towels (remember towel power?).
“It was a tremendous success,” says Kinvig of the weekend, which also raised $3,350 and a truck full of food for the food bank. “We had huge crowds [on Saturday], and everything went seamlessly. It was something the community needed, and was really good for the TCMHA. There are potentially 29 more kids to join us. And the kids got to meet guys who played in the NHL; they were great.
“Lots of people worked really hard. It was a positive event and a celebration for the community, and it was great to see so many people out to support it. It was pretty cool. I’m relieved and tired, but very happy.”