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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
PHOTO GALLERY: Sports: IceDogs and mascot Bones practise with NOTL teams
Linkon Jackson and Leo Biega try to avoid getting caught by IceDogs mascot Bones in a game of tag. TRACEY HOPE
Members of the NOTL minor hockey U7 Initiation Program 1 team pose with the IceDogs' mascot Bones. TRACEY HOPE
Hunter Willms hangs out with IceDogs' mascot Bones. TRACEY HOPE
U9 head coach Derek Nichols chats with his players while junior stars Ryan Roobroeck, Ethan Czata, Ivan Galiyanov, Kevin He and IceDogs assistant coach Damon Racicot look on. TRACEY HOPE
Sydney Herriman with Ethan Czata. TRACEY HOPE
Smith Kaposy and Bennett Hope with Kevin He and Ethan Czata. TRACEY HOPE
Members of the U9 team pose with the visiting IceDogs. TRACEY HOPE
IceDogs Ivan Galiyanov (#92), Ethan Czata (#12), Ryan Roobroeck (#25) and Kevin He (#11) at the U9 team's practice. TRACEY HOPE
Colton Dietsch with Ivan Galiyanov. TRACEY HOPE
Bones leads the U7 players in a warm-up skate. MICHAEL KAUZLARIC

It was a hockey skate that two groups of NOTL kids and their parents won’t soon forget.

Two Niagara-on-the-Lake Minor Hockey Association teams had some very special guests show up for their practices the past two weeks.

First, youngsters with the U7 Initiation Program 1 squad got a surprise visit from Bones, the Niagara IceDogs’ mascot.

And last Thursday members of the U9 Minor Development team were shocked when four members and one coach from the IceDogs showed up to join them on the ice.

The IceDogs sent some of their stars, too – top scorer Kevin He, first-round draft pick (#2 overall) Ryan Roobroeck, forwards Ethan Czata and Ivan Galiyanov, and assistant coach Damon Racicot.

It all came about because the two NOTL teams were supposed to have participated in a pregame skate at an IceDogs league game a few weeks ago.

That got cancelled at the last-minute due to poor ice conditions and the kids were really disappointed.

“About half an hour before this was supposed to start we got a call saying that it had to be cancelled due to poor ice conditions,” said Tracey Hope, a parent with kids on both teams.

“Apparently there was an event earlier that day that ruined the ice surface and the team needed to spend a couple of hours before the game fixing it.”

“Our kids were devastated, to say the least.”

But the IceDogs made up for it. Big time.

The major junior club reached out with a way to put smiles back on the kids’ faces: How about a special skate with Bones and some IceDogs players?

Most of the kids on the U7 team are five and six years old, so having Bones hang out with them seemed a good fit.

He played tag with the players and “was absolutely hilarious,” Hope said.

“It was great to see the innocence of that age as the kids really seemed to believe they were skating with a giant dog.”

The U9 kids were a little shy and nervous around the IceDogs at first, but once they started scrimmaging the kids became more comfortable and had a great time, Hope said.

Eight-year-old Henry Kedziora might have summed it up best. “It was really fun and I got to hug a player when I scored in 3 on 3.”

The IceDogs did drills with the youngsters and participated in a mini game as well, Hope said.

“The players stayed the full hour and then afterwards came into the dressing room to pose for pictures and sign autographs.”

Parents seemed to enjoy the night as much as the kids, saying it was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that their child would remember forever,” she said.

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