Heat forge ahead with school day game, despite looming teachers’ strike

The impending teacher's strike next week represents a curveball for the Abbotsford Heat, but the team is adjusting on the fly.

The impending teachers’ strike next week represents an organizational curveball for the Abbotsford Heat, whose inaugural school day game is set for Tuesday morning.

The game, with its unconventional 10:30 a.m. start time, has been in the works since the American Hockey League schedule was set last August. It’s modeled after successful initiatives run by other AHL clubs, where hockey teams and local school districts partner on developing a curriculum supplement, then bus in thousands of kids to the rink to watch a game as a field trip.

The Heat had been expecting upwards of 4,300 middle school students for Tuesday’s tilt with the Houston Aeros. But with teachers preparing to strike for three days (Monday to Wednesday) as their dispute with the provincial government continues, the plans for a teacher-led field trip are out the window.

But like a good hockey team, the Heat’s off-ice staff have had to be adept at changing on the fly. They’re expanding the game into an all-day affair, and extending the $10 ticket price for middle school students to fans of all ages. Adults who attend with four kids will be admitted free.

The Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre will open at 9:30 a.m. and will remain open until 3 p.m., essentially an entire school day. The team is scheduling a variety of post-game activities for the youth and supervising adults in attendance, including a player meet-and-greet, arts and crafts, and a movie on the jumbotron.

“Some things are just out of our control,” Heat president Ryan Walter acknowledged with a wry grin. “So in Heatville, we’ve got to keep finding solutions. I’m really proud of my team on this one.

“We think we can reach our objectives a different way. This could be our biggest walk-up (crowd) ever.”