Saturday 4 February 2012

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Adventures with the Kelowna Rockets

It's how Canadian kids learn Geography. On a normal day to day basis, you probably don't care too much where Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is, but when your favorite hockey team has to travel there for a playoff series, you might spend a few seconds to look it up. That's how I found out anyways, although I would have had a 50-50 shot if I'd just guessed which of the two roads in Saskatchewan it was on. The point is that, since moving to Kelowna, the Kelowna Rockets are our team, and while they may teach small town Geography during their drives across the real frozen tundra (Green Bay...hah! Ever tried Prince Albert in January?), their real value comes when they're at home in Kelowna.

Everybody in Kelowna goes to see the Rockets play at one point or another. Game night is almost as much a social activity as it is a sporting event, and with an arena capable of holding almost 5% of the population, there's a good chance that you're running into somebody you know. It makes for a great date night too, as three hours of entertainment for under $20 is definitely a nice substitution for the traditional movie date (although you are allowed to talk during a hockey game, so if you're getting by on your looks and not your conversation skills, stick with the movie). In fact, a Rockets game was the backdrop for one of the most successful dates Lori and I have ever had.

Technically though, it wasn't a date. For Lori's 30th birthday (umm...which she hasn't had yet because I think we're still celebrating 29) I threw her a surprise party at a Kelowna Rockets game. They have a hospitality suite that you can rent on a per game basis which holds up to 36 people, so I distributed tickets in advance and then tried to sell Lori on the idea that going to a Rockets game for her birthday was a good idea. This is where the groundwork I'd been doing for the last ten years paid off, as I'd set the romance bar so low that even a hockey game sounded like a perfect evening to my wife. Suffice to say, Lori was completely surprised (surprises work well when you only do them once every 30 years) and the Kelowna Rockets game became one of our most memorable dates, even if we did share it with 34 of our friends.

Our kids still haven't really developed a taste for hockey, even going as far as staying home to play video games instead of going to the Memorial Cup final which the Rockets won on home ice. I think they see the intertwining of hockey in their day to day life more as they grow up though, and the Kelowna Rockets certainly do their part to be involved. The Rockets have a program where they come to your school and read to some of the children in the younger grades, and then they play a lunch time hockey game against the older kids. My son, who's in about the same amount of danger of being drafted by an NHL team that I am (although he does skate better than I do), got to play against the Rockets during his grade six year, and that year one of the players the Rockets sent out was Jamie Benn, who is currently an NHL All-Star Left Winger for the Dallas Stars. My son now has the honor of not only being able to say that he got to play against Jamie Benn, but that he is the only one of his friends to ever draw a two minute penalty for slashing Jamie Benn across the ankles. I'm so proud!

My oldest daughter has had some fun with the Rockets too, although she hasn't gotten a chance to play hockey against them yet. Neve has one of those personalities that always seems to get her picked as a volunteer for things, and at a Rockets game a little while ago, she was chosen to participate in a bike race on the ice between periods. Now in fairness, this was a relay race, and she was long out of contention by the time her turn to ride came up, but she gave it a good effort and she can now say that she's ridden a bike on the ice at a hockey game. Well, "ridden" might be stretching the definition of the word....

If you're in Kelowna and somebody asks you if you're going to "the game" tonight, you know they're talking about the Rockets. Whether or not you're a hockey fan, you probably have a friend who is going, and there's no way you can avoid overhearing conversations about the Rockets when playoff time rolls around. It's what I imagine College football must be like in the United States, minus the cheerleaders and giant bonfires which don't really lend themselves well to ice sports. Until my kids make their way to university though, this is as much of a community uniting event as they're going to get. Of course, if they don't start paying attention and learn where Moose Jaw is, they're not going to get in to university now are they?