All 16 captains for the HSBC Canada Sevens were involved in the ceremonial puck drop at a National Hockey League game between the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
On what was a special occasion for the 16 men, they lined up on the ice at the Canucks’ home rink in Vancouver with home skipper Harry Jones and Philip Snyman of series leaders South Africa dropping the puck between the two hockey captains on the night, Henrik Sedin of the Canucks and the Islanders’ John Tavares.
The players then turned towards the flags of the USA and Canada as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘O Canada’ played across the huge indoor auditorium in downtown Vancouver.
Jones said: “It was pretty exciting for us tonight. I didn’t think I’d ever be out on the ice singing the national anthem before an NHL game but it was great to be able to do that. It has got me fired up for the weekend and if the reaction tonight is any indication of what it’s going to be like this weekend then it’s going to be very special.”
BIGGEST CHEER FOR CANADA'S SKIPPER
Indeed, while all 16 captains received warm applause when their names were called, the biggest cheer was reserved for Jones, possibly a sign of things to come this weekend when the rugby kicks off at BC Place, just across the road from the hockey arena.
“The crowd was so important for us last year. It pushed us through that France game when we were able to win the Bowl. We are hoping to go even better this year and if the crowd really gets behind us I think we can do big things,” said Jones.
New Zealand are the defending champions in Vancouver having won the inaugural tournament here in 2016. Their 2017 captain, Scott Curry, wasn’t part of the side that weekend but having spent an evening at the Rogers Arena, he knows now how vociferous the local crowd will be.
Curry said: “It has been awesome. It’s my first time in Canada so to get to go to an ice hockey game and actually get to get out there on the ice for the captains’ photo is pretty amazing.
HUGE ATMOSPHERE EXPECTED IN BC PLACE
“It’s been really good. You can see they really get behind the Canucks. The fans are all wearing the jerseys and supporting their team. Hopefully, when we get out there in BC Place, there will be plenty of people creating the same sort of atmosphere for us to play in.
“We’ll be playing the final game of day one against Canada so I’m guessing it will be a pretty awesome atmosphere. It will be cool to be playing in an enclosed stadium, which will keep the noise in, so I know all our guys are really looking forward to that game.”
Along with some of the captains, Curry stayed after the anthems and enjoyed watching the hockey game, which the Canucks lost 4-3 in overtime. However, the 28-year-old from Manawatu is not sure he’ll be making the switch from rugby to hockey just yet.
“I’m tempted to have a go but I don’t know how good I’d be. I don’t know if I could even stand up on skates to start off with. It looks like a fun game. You can see a lot of similarities to sevens as well. It’s a very fast-paced, tough and athletic game and very spectator-friendly too.”