Any time you get the opportunity to do something unique, relevant, and out of your typical comfort zone, you have to at least consider it. Today, the Canadian Navy helped us make this happen, as we played hockey on the flight deck of the HMCS Preserver.
The Preserver has a lot of history behind it that can be tied to hockey. Laid down in October of 1967, construction began at the start of the NHL’s expansion era. It’s the longest serving warship in the Canadian Navy, meaning it’s been around longer than any player who has ever played for the Mooseheads, the QMJHL team that calls Halifax their home. Most directly, it’s no stronger to hockey-related scenes; in 2009, Sidney Crosby flew in to town with the Stanley Cup and landed on the very same deck that we played on today.
Everybody on board was super accommodating to us. We were given a quick tour, treated to breakfast and lunch, told stories about the past, present, and future of the ship and its Naval workers, and really taken in as one of their own for a few hours. On top of this, they had food for FEED NOVA SCOTIA, and lots of it! They had really embraced what we’re about and turned it into something special of our own. Eventually, it was time to hit the deck and drop the opening ball!
There was a definite change of pace between this game and a traditional game of street hockey. For starters, the flight deck has a thick anti-skid surface on it. This meant the ball bounced in ways that defied common sense, that sticks would sometimes hop before you could release a shot, and that dekes were just a lost cause all together. You could see the difference by watching the road crew; Jeff’s hand-centric game disappeared, whereas Ryan’s “everything to the net” approach made him the best of the bunch.
What was even more difficult, however, was the lack of boards. There was some loose robe fencing, but it rarely prevented the one concern of the day. I speak of course of lost balls. Normally in street hockey, your enemy is somebody’s lawn shrub or clearing a fence you’ve been told to stop jumping. Today? If you went wide, your ball was going into the Atlantic Ocean. Boy, did that happen a lot. Over the course of the five games that we had, totaling about an hour, we lost exactly thirty five balls to the water. Hopefully the fish don’t get freaked out by orange spheres!
At the end of the day, this was an experience that none of us will ever forget. I mean, just think about it – we had a couple of hockey games on the flight deck of a warship. How insane is that? This might be the first time that anybody has ever done it; certainly the first time that anybody has bragged about it. Not just that, we were treated as if we were one of their own, and they made a massive contribution to the cause. I don’t think anybody involved would trade what went down for the world.