It was a Canadian scene if ever there was one.
While the Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors squared off at the Brandt Centre, those not at the game were enjoying hockey in Victoria Park.
Rogers Hometown Hockey set up an arena dedicated to ball hockey. Hockey foosball on the ground and a Canadian icon in the crowd.
As Ron MacLean explained Jonathan Toews’s summertime activities to a young boy wearing the Chicago Blackhawk’s jersey, he spoke as if talking to a friend. For many that’s exactly what MacLean is: a familiar face they’ve seen on their television every Saturday night for years.
No matter where he went, MacLean was the star of the afternoon.
“Everyone crowded around Ron MacLean as soon as he got here,” explained an excited David Wright, one of the many volunteers taking part. “It’s neat to see all those guys come down to Regina and make an appearance.”
And it wasn’t just the adults whom he impressed. Nine-year-old Mason Monroe, and his older brother Adam lit up when they met the sportscaster.
“It was pretty cool meeting Ron MacLean because I see him all the time on TV,” Adam said.
Away from the spotlight starlets studded the crowd. Former NHLer, and Saskatchewan native Rhett Warrener was there signing autographs, and enjoying the festivities, happy to be back in his home province.
“It’s been awesome coming back to Saskatchewan. The people are always warm and engaging. It’s been a lot of fun,” Warrener said.
There was a steady stream of people lined up for Warrener’s autograph, but he made time for each one, chatted with them, and made sure to pose for as many selfies as possible.
“It brings back a lot of memories, all the times you spent in the small town rinks, freezing your feet off,” Warrener laughed. “You see the kids running around, and you forget how important it is for them to get close to some of the guys that moved on and played in the NHL.”
It was a chance to enjoy the positives of the sport, from strangers playing ball hockey with each other, to watching the festivities from afar with a warm coffee. Hometown Hockey captured the essence of Saturday mornings at the rink, and the camaraderie it brings.
“It just feels cool because I play hockey, and it feels like I’m a part of hockey right now,” 10-year-old Aiden Thompson summarized.