Abbotsford Heat
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A group of young fans came up with a creative way to cheer on the Abbotsord Heat during the team's second annual school day game on Tuesday.
Dan Kinvig

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Heat's school day game a hit

In the aftermath of his team’s 3-2 win over the Rochester Americans on Tuesday, Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward said his team got a huge assist from the crowd of school kids in the stands.

The students – comprising more than two-thirds of the 6,172 fans in attendance – had been bused to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre as part of the AHL hockey team’s second annual school day game.

The Heat’s average crowd is just over 3,900 fans per game, and Ward felt that the youngsters gave his team an important boost after they fell behind 1-0 early.

“In a normal home game for our team, we wouldn’t have felt much after we scored (the tying goal),” Ward said. “That’s just the reality we live in here. We have great fans that are here, but they’re not always in big numbers, and they’re not always super-loud. So to have all the kids here today really helped us.”

The school day game was a partnership between the Heat, School District 34 and Fraser Valley Distance Education. The team provided students with a workbook to reinforce school board curriculum and engage students with hockey-related learning activities.

Heat president Ryan Walter said the team has received “great feedback” from the school district on the initiative.

“The driving force for us is, every AHL team does it, and I love the energy behind this game,” he said. “We visited schools 91 times last season as an organization – one of our goals was to find ways to give back.”

The students’ presence was a treat for the players.

“It’s fun playing in front of a lot of people, and those kids were really loud,” Heat defenceman Brett Carson marvelled. “It got us going early.”

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