Westock’s midget Sabres team got a once in a lifetime chance on Jan. 21 when they played an exhibition game against a team from Vegreville at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
“I think for the players it was an experience they’ll cherish for a long time to get to play on that ice,” said coach Jeff Copeland.
The game was part of the Edmonton Oil Kings’ “Big League Experience” program, which gives minor hockey teams the chance to play on the same ice as the pros do.
The entire event was structured to give the teams as accurate an experience as possible.
“We got to do the whole five-minute warm-up,” Copeland said. “We stood on the blue line and they sang O Canada and we had 50 minutes of hockey and pictures and stuff after.”
In order to make the game realistic, referees were provided to officiate and the arena’s bullhorn was used whenever a goal was scored.
Copeland said the team took part in the game as a way to make up for being unable to attend provincials this year.
“This was a nice thing for the team to get to do together,” he said. “Just the experience itself to let these guys skate on Rexall and get to dress in the visitors’ dressing room, it’s just something nice for the kids to do and they can remember it.”
Kevin Mayowski is one of those players who took part in the game. He said the experience will stay with him for a long time.
“It was really neat because I’m not going to get another chance to do that,” he said, adding it was “really special” to be able to skate on the same ice as some of hockey’s greats.
He said one difference he found about the ice at Rexall compared to the ice at Jubilee Arena was the Rexall ice was harder and bigger than at Jubilee.
As for whether the whole big league experience, with the anthems and bullhorn in a professional rink, was overwhelming, he said no.
“We just went out and played and had fun,” he said.
Since it was only an exhibition game, Copeland said no one was out to create any harm. Instead, it was a chance for the players to try some different moves. The score, a 4-1 Sabres victory, was merely an afterthought.
The only players around for the game were the Sabres and their opponents, Copeland said; no Oil Kings hung around to take part.
Copeland said both teams, the Sabres and their Vegreville opponents, had to sell 75 tickets each to the preceding Oil Kings game in order to play their game.