Hopping on a bus for a 4:45 a.m. road trip to Vancouver wasn’t a problem for the Penticton Murray GM bantam Vees hockey team.
Their destination was Rogers Arena to join the Canucks on the ice for their Canucks for Kids Fund Super Skills competition on Jan. 11.
The Vees were chosen by B.C. Hockey, which makes the selection based on the team’s season. In the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association, the Vees are 11-0-1. Including tournament play, they are 38-4-2.
“It was unreal. It was so much fun with the Canucks,” said Tyler Maser, who along with twin brother Josh, had a photo taken with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
“I don’t think they noticed that we were twins until we took the actual photo.”
The Masers didn’t perform as they would have liked during the skills competition. Tyler was denied on the breakaway category, while Josh missed the net in the hardest shot. He blamed it on nerves.
“It was really scary,” said Josh. “It was like 13,000 people or something.”
Simon Snyman said it was amazing being there. Snyman impressed his coach Rob McLaughlin in the fastest skater relay as his time was just shy of Dale Weise’s time. Snyman said he clocked in at about 15.66 seconds.
“I was very surprised,” said Snyman, adding that he is a quick skater. “The first 10 steps I don’t even remember.”
Canucks winger Zack Kassian came up to Snyman and told him to not worry about the fans, adding that it will just come naturally. Once Snyman finished his skate, Kassian returned.
“He said, ‘Wow, you were really flying out there. You almost beat me.”
The Vees coach got a kick out of how the players were before hand.
“They were very nervous and it was fun to see how nervous they actually were,” Rob laughed. “Once they got out on the ice, I talked to a few of them, they said that they forgot all those people were there. To see their faces light up, seeing the people cheer and stuff, the boys did pretty well in the competition.”
Liam McLaren enjoyed success in the accuracy shooting as he got all four targets on seven shots. Setting him up was defenceman Dan Hamhuis and centre Henrik Sedin, who he said are really good passers.
“It was pretty awesome to be in a crowd of 13,000 people and at the end when you get your four they all cheer for you,” said McLaren, a fan of Zack Kassian and Tom Sestito because of their playing style.
Josh said before they went onto the ice, the Canucks entered the Vees’ dressing room and signed jerseys, hats and other memorabilia.
“They are just like normal people. Just like normal guys,” said Josh, who asked the Sedins how they got to the NHL “It was an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Ethan McLaughlin described their trip as “pretty crazy.” He loved being with the Canucks and talking to the players.
“I just like see them on TV and stuff,” said Ethan, who is a Ryan Kesler fan. “To just see them in real life and to talk to them … I talked to Kesler. I just said hi to him. He asked how I was doing.”
Ethan had the crowd behind him during the breakaway relay and when he scored, received a loud cheer.
“I’ve never felt like that before,” he said smiling.
The players also were allowed into the Canucks dressing room, which impressed Ethan.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “It was so cool.”
“It was a huge experience,” the Vees coach said. “It was great to see how the Canucks talked to them. (Former Penticton Vee Zac) Dalpe was great. I know he spoke to a few of the boys lots and talked about Penticton and says he loves it in Vancouver.
“The Canucks did a great job,” he continued. “They introduced all the boys. They had all their names and numbers and their picture on the Jumbo tron. Introduced the players when they hit the ice. A real class act. What an experience for kids that are 13 and 14-years-old.”