The Nipawin Atom Black Hawks were the guests of honour at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert on Wednesday.
The team was one of 10 to be selected in the SaskEnergy contest that sends minor hockey players from across the province to a WHL game.
Winning the contest didn’t just mean free admission to a Raiders’ game. “We had a big chat with the coaches, they did a phenomenal job of telling the kids about the need to be the best you can be, listen to your parents, support each other…” said head coach Cory Froelich.
The Black Hawks also enjoyed a walk-through of the weight room, shook hands with players and even sat on the Raiders’ bench. Froelich said the kids loved it. “They couldn’t believe it, this is the big time … to be right out there on the bench, it was great.”
Earlier this week, Raiders business manager/director of marketing Bruce Vance said the team is happy to be a part of the initiative. “The Prince Albert Raiders are excited and proud to partner with SaskEnergy to bring some regional minor hockey teams to Raider games,” said Vance.
The experience was a very pleasant end to a devastating season. The team endured a terrible tragedy when Froelich’s 13-year-old son passed away from Burkitt’s Leukemia several months ago.
As a result, Froelich took some time off from the team, “We’ve been having a pretty rough go this year … I’ve been away from the team, so I kind of put that as part of my note [for the contest application] and this was a great opportunity for me to get back with the team.”
Froelich also has a 10-year-old son who plays on the Black Hawks. Winning the contest and having such a great experience was good for the team after their extremely difficult season. “It’s a good bonding experience. I knew a lot of these kids would never have a chance to go to a WHL game.”
Froelich thanked his assistant coaches for doing a great job in his absence and said he was able to leave the team because he knew the kids would be in very capable hands.
Burkitt’s Leukemia is a rare, fast-growing type of cancer that usually afflicts children. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, between 2003 and 2007 only 88 cases of Burkitt’s Leukemia were diagnosed in Canada.
On twitter: @_seanleslie
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