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Feb. 23, 2020 | Sunday
Local News
Ice Dogs visit Fort George
Ice Dogs Jonah DeSimone, Stephen Dhillon, Mason Howard, Jake Uberti signed autographs at Fort George Tuesday afternoon. (Eunice Tang/Special)

Ice Dog players appeared at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake to skate, sign autographs and take photos with their fans on Tuesday.

Julia Grcevic, a Parks Canada employee, said she was pleased to see about 150 people show up for the event, especially considering they didn’t know what to expect of the weather.

Parks Canada is a long-time sponsor for the Ice Dogs, the last event together took place two years ago, when the rink was first opened on Family Day.

With approximately 500 people they were asked to return this year.

“We didn’t know what to expect. Two years ago, when we did it there was a good turnout. We usually draw quite a large crowd,” Cori Burke said, who handles corporate sponsorships for the Ice Dogs.

The event is not annual, as it depends on the Ice Dog’s schedule. Since it is March Break and they did not have a game it worked out well for everyone.

“The players have been practicing in the morning on March Break, so it left our afternoons open… normally they practice in the afternoons, so it worked out well with March Break and the availability,” Burke said.

Many young fans look up to the Ice Dogs and consider them role models. Events like this, where the Ice Dog players make their way out into the community, encourage families to join, interact and to support their local team.

“They get to learn so much about them because there is only four of them, rather than trying to get an autograph from every single player on the team. They’re now asking them questions they might not be able to after a game… Who’s your role model, where are you from, what do you play? They ask about other players on the team too. It’s a way to get to know the player on a personal level,” Rachael Callaghan, manager of game day operations said.

Fans that attended the event had the option of skating on the rink, participating in a scavenger hunt or warming up indoors. Four Ice Dog players were present; Mason Howard, Stephen Dhillon, Jonah De Simone and Jake Uberti. The players were on and off the rink while fans requested pictures and autographs. Fans also spent time participating in a scavenger hunt that required them to find six Parka plushies, write down the letters placed on the Parka plushies on a form given to them and return the form to the Parks Canada kiosk. This gave fans a chance to win one of two hockey sticks autographed by the Ice Dog team. The Ice Dog players will select two winners by the end of the week.

Fans also spent time with the four players, learning how to march like musketeers. They threw on uniforms, held a wooden faux musket and formed in a horizontal line.

Musketeers must march first with their left, then their right, all while holding their musket in their left hand at their shoulder. They must march in a straight line and also prepare to halt when told. As the fans were young, their straight lines were not so straight, considering the Ice Dog Players had longer legs.

The Ice Dogs last home game is on March 14 at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines, after the team spent the week relaxing with their fans on March Break.

Approximately 5,300 seats were sold.

The team clinched a playoff spot and are first against Sudbury.

“We are hoping to win the OHL finals and go onto the MEM cup which is in Halifax this year, which will take us to the end of May,” Burke said.