The team arrived in Kennewick about 6:30 this evening after a busy day in the small Northeastern Oregon town of Enterprise…a day that started very cold (-15 degrees fahrenheit in Enterprise on Monday night)…and ended with a lot of smiles and community goodwill.
This picture is of the Eagle Cap Chalet just off the shores of the frozen over Wallowa Lake, about fifteen miles out of Enterprise. The resort is broken up into chalets, condos and cabins and the team was split up between the buildings as we were the only tenants.
No cell phone service or Internet, but it was incredibly beautiful…
The bus ready for loading (the players hung their gear in a conference room to keep it warm) in the parking lot at the Eagle Cap Chalet.
We had a bit of a nervous moment a few minutes later when the bus had issues starting, but a few adjustments by our bus driver Rags and we were on our way to town.
After a great breakfast at Lear’s Pub & Grille in downtown Enterprise, it was off to the Enterprise Public School.
The players unload at the school. The one building school houses Kindergarten through Grade 12, with the 7 room elementary school on one side and the Middle/High School on the other.
Jerry Moss and the players meet the elementary school students with the emphasis on safety, physical fitness and reading.
This is the small gymnasium in the school, with the larger one just down the hall where they host basketball and volleyball games.
The morning started with this assembly and then the players separated into three groups that went into the individual elementary classrooms to read to the students and to answer questions and sign autographs.
Each student got a soft puck and a program for autographs.
Brett Ponich, Stefan Schneider and Max Brandl assisted on the school’s teachers in putting on the full hockey gear to the amusement of the 150+ students.
The focus was on safety and wearing the proper equipment while skating, riding a bike, skateboarding and other outdoor activities.
After finishing at the school, the team posed for a picture on the front steps of the school.
From there, it was back to Lear’s for lunch and then off to the local outdoor rink for a spirited skate followed by a chance for the locals to skate with the Hawks.
The view from the street at the outdoor rink…it was cloudy with snow fluries flying and it had warmed up into the 20’s. In other words…perfect…
The town really opened their arms to the team, including a big “Welcome Winter Hawks” banner made by the grade school kids.
The team had just arrived and were getting their first feel of the surface.
The players start some passing and skating drills…notice the small nets, evidently goaltenders are scarce in Enterprise, and also, there are only end boards with snow banks on the sides.
The small nets also had boards up with strategically placed holes where players could score goals.
Kurtis Mucha, with a spare hockey sock for a toque, looks remarkably huge in front of the small nets.
The Winter Hawks donated some equipment, hockey socks and also are having two full sized metal goals to the local rink. The nets didn’t arrive in time for today’s festivities, but it didn’t dampen the spirits.
In fact, the players took particular enjoyment in beating the goaltender and finding the miniature targets.
Head Coach Mike Johnston sets up the next drill for his team.
Due to the size of the surface, they were limited in the drills they could run, but the drills focused on crisp passing and skating.
The local school kids had a close-up look at the Hawks running through the practice. There were lots of oohs and aahs and they also got excited when Jerry Moss and crew handed more goodies to the young spectators.
This was a big deal in this small town and the smiles of the kids made the day incredibly special.
The crowd, young and old, all had a great time and many took the time to come up to me and the other staff to say Thank You for making the day a special event.
The Hawks had a professional photographer on hand taking photo’s and also a videographer shooting video, including interviews with the Mayor of Enterprise and other people that will be put into a documentary that will be shown at hopefully future games.
Ryan White, columnist from The Oregonian, made the long trek over with a photographer, and he will be working on a feature for the paper in the coming days.
It was great to have the coverage, especially from Ryan, who is a hockey guy.
The three goaltenders – Kurtis Mucha, Ian Curtis and Keith Hamilton – pose for a photo before leaving the ice.
The smiles were all over the ice, and I think the goalies liked the smaller nets…
In the end…it was a long day, but a ton of fun…we left the town with snow falling and we had a great opportunity to see a lot of deer and elk in the mountains as we made our way back to LaGrande and then the main highways to Kennewick.
Tomorrow…back to game action against the Tri City Americans…