Heat fans love to wear their passion on their sleeves. Some bring cowbells to support their team, some sport a spinning red goal light fastened onto on a red helmet and some love to help their team by heckling and getting under the skin of the opponents.
Then there are the fans that travel over 3,500 kilometres to cheer on their favourite squad. Dave Duffill and Rebecca Jarvais, along with their daughter, MacKenzie, and son, Kyler, decided they’d rather enjoy the Heat than the sun on their family vacation. The family packed up and departed for Rochester, New York where they supported their team in unfamiliar territory.
“When I looked at what to buy for Christmas, I decided that that was what I was going to do,” Rebecca said.
Naturally, the family turned some heads when they entered the Blue Cross Arena in their red Heat jerseys. “I was a little nervous at first,” Dave smiled, “but we found the Rochester fans very welcoming.
“They asked a lot of questions. They wanted to know why we were here, where Abbotsford was. They weren’t really sure where Abbotsford was, so we used Seattle as a reference point. […] But they were fantastic. They treated us and the kids really well and they were very welcoming.”
“I really enjoyed the people,” said Rebecca. “I really think the people made the entire trip for us – both our people as far as the players – they were incredible with both us and the kids, but the people in the stands just really made us feel like we weren’t in enemy territory. They were so good.”
Dave and Rebecca were very thankful for the kindness their family received on their trip. Play-by-Play Broadcaster Ryan Pinder and Heat head coach Troy G. Ward went above and beyond the line of duty to give Dave, Rebecca, MacKenzie and Kyler a family experience they won’t soon forget.
“After the last game, coach Ward invited Kyler and I down to the team dressing room to meet the players,” Dave said. “So the kids got to talk to the players and they got to get more autographs.”
Described by Dave and Rebecca as the “21st member of the Heat,” Kyler, 5, spends most of his time near the Heat tunnel during games, high-fiving and fist-bumping the players as they leave and enter the ice.
“He absolutely idolizes the whole team, particularly the goalies though. It’s been Leland, Danny and Barry throughout our whole house. Goalie gear, goalie sticks – a future hockey player for sure.”
Currently honing his skills at the National Training Rink in Langley, the same rink Heat goalie coach Jordan Sigalet coaches his Pro-Formance Goalie School out of, Kyler’s favourite group of hockey players have made quite the impression on the young future netminder.
“These boys were the ones who got him to play hockey. He didn’t want to skate until he started coming to the games this past year full-time. He’s going to start playing hockey next year and these were the boys responsible for getting him to play.”
Like any avid hockey fans that take a trip east, the family had to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. After getting their pictures taken in front of the designated Calgary Flames and Abbotsford Heat section, Kyler practiced being an NHL goalie for more than an hour.
“We couldn’t get him out of the goalie drill,” Dave laughed. “He did get to have a heart-to-heart talk with Danny Taylor in the locker room about wanting to be a goalie and Danny told him, ‘don’t be a goalie, there’s too much pressure.’ That was right after the shootout loss.”
“The best part though was probably just the fact that we really felt like we were a part of the team there. Everywhere we were, they knew that we were there and we were there to completely support our team.”
“They were so appreciative of the fact that we were there,” Rebecca said. “Just the fact that we had gone so far just to watch them and that’s all it was about. We didn’t go to Rochester for anything but the men out there on the ice. That was the only reason that we went.”
When asked if they’d take a similar excursion in the future, they replied in unison, “absolutely.”