A special two day event on Jan. 10 and 11 hosted by the Campbell River minor hockey association (CRMHA) had a cute moment or two, and a couple of special invited guests that brought a crowd out to the Rod Brind’Amour Arena at Strathcona Gardens.
Practice for the U7 to U11 programs was coordinated by coaches, as well as Canucks mascot Fin, and former Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean, who backstopped the NHL club to game seven of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals versus the New York Rangers.
“Last year, the event was cancelled by COVID,” said CRMHA second vice president Chantelle May. “Discussions for coming up here began in October. We’re finally here and looking forward to it, for sure.”
The visit to Campbell River is the last leg of visits to communities on the North Island, and it’s a shame it took this long, according to hockey development and alumni liaison manager of the Canucks, Rod Braithwaite.
“The last time we were up in Campbell River, the CRMHA president was Bill Boschmann,” said Braithwaite. “We were put in touch with Chantelle by Kelly [Kirksteiner], the scouting coordinator for the Vancouver Giants. From there we continued discussions and coordinated the event today.”
McLean, who played 11 seasons with the Canucks, was accompanied by club mascot Fin, as they skated around the ice helping the youngsters with their drills. Each player got an autographed picture of McLean, as well as Canucks memorabilia and a team picture featuring coaches as well as McLean and Fin.
Braithwaite says events like this occur several times over the course of the hockey season.
“We’re always looking to do more community initiatives,” said Braithwaite. “We’re trying to do at least five each season. We were just up in Port Hardy and Port McNeil. We’ll definitely do another three or four before season’s end.”
McLean, who still holds Canucks records for games played, saves, as well as shots attempted on goal, says the event is a throwback to his youth, growing up playing in arenas for what was the Metro Toronto Hockey League (MTHL, now Greater Toronto Hockey League, GTHL)
“I grew up watching Bernie Parent and Jacques Plante when they played for the Leafs,” said McLean. “This is a chance to give back to these little guys. Some of the parents are probably at the age where they remember me, but these kids seem to do their homework, with Youtube and certainly it helps out.”
However, McLean said the goal is to ensure one thing for the young ones: have fun.
“At the end of the day, the camaraderie with their friends. Having fun out here with their friends is key,” said McLean. “It’s love of the game, working on their game learning the game and enjoying themselves.”
The event wraps up on Jan 11, with the Hurricanes’ girls teams participating in drills.