Smiles all around!

On a blustery night where the weather outside was dreary, smiles of athletes and spectators alike, shone through all the falling snow at the Muir Lake School gymnasium.  The West Central Special Olympics athletes were hosting the Spruce Grove Saints in a challenge match of floor hockey to get their teams prepared for the Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games held Feb. 20th -22nd  in Grande Prairie.

The rules were basically the same as regular hockey but the sticks and puck more closely resembled ringette, and the West Central athletes used this to their advantage in both games played.  In the first game against some of the younger athletes, their team nicknamed the Bolts, the Saints had to get accustomed to the new sticks and the kids took it to our players jumping out to a 3-1 one lead. The Saints managed to get a goal back, but it wasn’t enough as the “young guns” Bolts won 3-2.

In game two, the Saints knew they were in for a battle against the WCSO Lightning team, when one of the Saints had their pocket picked from behind and the puck found its way into the back of the net, top shelf, where grandma hides the cookie jar. All this in less time than it takes to stand in line for a coffee.   Jaws dropped on the Saints bench, as fans cheered on the sidelines, the West Central Lightning players high fived and got ready to line up at centre court for the next face off.  To them, it’s another day at the office, and they were ready for more.  Needless to say: GAME ON! 

The game was a back and forth affair that saw great offense and defense displayed by both teams.  At the end of regulation, the score board shows an 8-8 tie, but not to the athletes on either bench.  We are going to a shootout folks! 

Each team had all athletes shoot, and if you scored, you stayed in the game.  If you missed, well, the Saints found out the hard way and had a lot of shooters on the bench quickly. In the end, despite the heroics of Austin Hunter who scored 4 in a row to keep the Saints alive, it was too much to overcome the tenacity of the Special Olympians.  The Saints fell 9-8 in a shoot out.

“You don’t know how appreciative our athletes were that the Saints took the time to come and play floor hockey with them.  It has left such a positive impact on our athletes and the thrill will last a very long time” says Evelyn Yaceyko of the West Central Special Olympics. “Actions speak louder than words and the Saints made a positive difference in the lives of those who sometimes go unnoticed.”

If it makes any sense at all, not one single thing made this event special, but every single thing made it a special night.  The Spruce Grove Saints might have been the guests of honour for the night, but it was the West Central team that were the stars.

Shaun Collard
Spruce Grove Saints