There was little doubt that for the youngsters who form the lineup of the Nickel City Novice "A" Coyotes team, attending the International Silver Stick Tournament in Pelham this past weekend was going to be a very big deal.
By the end of their schedule, however, the kids had garnered an important perspective on the relative priority given to the game of hockey, with a very special emphasis on "game".
Deadlocked in a 2-2 tie with the New Hamburg Huskies, late in the contest and with a cross-over quarter-final game awaiting them, the Novice Coyotes would have to deal with a medical emergency on the bench, as head coach Mitch Lapierre collapsed, quickly and unexpectedly.
With the benches cleared, Lapierre was taken, via EMS, to the Niagara hospital, where thankfully, he was cleared of any cardiac or neural events. "The kids were pretty shaken by the events, including my own son (Hudson)," noted Lapierre, back home in Sudbury this week.
"Our amazing coaching staff of Ryan Proulx, Dom Fletcher, Yves Niquet, Steve Christakos and Paul Renaud did an incredible job of comforting the kids." In fact, mere hours after the morning drama, the Nickel City lads were receiving full marks for their resiliency, putting up quite the fight before being eliminated, 3-2, by the Lincoln Blades.
"I would like to mention the amazing paramedics, fire department staff and volunteers who responded," said Lapierre. "Being a nurse, I am eternally grateful to these people, and my coaching staff, who were incredible in the face of adversity."
The tournament had kicked off on Thursday, with the Georgina Blaze stopping the Coyotes 3-1, as Cooper Niquet struck paydirt for the locals. Back on the ice that same afternoon, Nickel City would suffer a 4-3 setback at the hands of the Whitby Wildcats, with Jackson Leveillé scoring twice in a losing cause, and Alex Proulx adding the remaining goal.
The 2-2 tie with New Hamburg would land the Coyotes in third place in their pool, forced to do battle with a Lincoln squad which had won all three of their games to that point.
Years from now, however, when the game scores have long since faded from memory, one would expect that it is the knowledge that their head coach is safe and sound that will remain clear in their minds.