SASKATOON â€” Drop a puck, become a Canuck.
That might be the idea behind a ceremony to be held this weekend at a Saskatoon Blades hockey game, where 20 new Canadians will be sworn in as citizens.
The group will take their oaths of citizenship with both the Blades and the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League looking on, and will also get a chance to don skates, grab a stick and learn a bit more about the game.
Steve Hogle, president of the Saskatoon team, says it should be “a very touching moment and a great reminder of all we have in this nation.”
He says the ceremony is believed to be the first of its kind in western Canada, and possibly the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization that includes the WHL as well as hockey leagues in Ontario and Quebec.
It won’t be the first citizenship ceremony held at a hockey game, however, as last September 100 new citizens, including Ottawa Senators legend Daniel Alfredsson, were sworn in at a World Cup of Hockey game in Toronto.
Adesina Adeyeno, who came to Saskatoon from Nigeria five years ago, is looking forward to becoming a citizen at a hockey game.
“Hockey is Canada’s national (winter) sport,” he says. “I think it’s a great way to become a citizen, and I’m really excited. I’m grateful to Canada for giving us this opportunity.”
The event is all being co-ordinated through an already existing partnership between the Saskatoon Open Door Society, Ecologik and the Blades organizations.
Sunday’s game was already set to be the Blades’ “Hockey 101” night that welcomes newcomers to Canada to learn about the sport and enjoy the game free of charge.
“Many of the newcomers haven’t seen or participated in hockey before,” says Ali Abukar, executive director of the Open Door Society. “It’s a great way of welcoming and engaging newcomers to our community.”
More than 500 people are expected to take part in the event. Before the game, they’ll receive a basic lesson on the rules and goals of hockey, try on equipment and get the chance to shoot a puck for the first time.
Once the game is underway, reminders of the rules will be provided to help newcomers keep track.
“We’re going to demonstrate the value that newcomers bring to our community,” Hogle says.
After the game, participants will be invited to a private skate where many will be hitting the ice for the first time.
Chris Vandenbreekel, CKOM, The Canadian Press