Divers take Grizzlies for a swim

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Ready, set, go! The Victoria Grizzlies line up to take the plunge into the waters at Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific).

They might be in shape for the ice, but on Nov. 4 the hockey players from the Victoria Grizzlies discovered a different kind of fitness – fit to fight.   

Victoria’s Junior “A” British Columbia Hockey League team spent a day in a navy diver’s wet suit to see, hear, and feel what it’s like to work beneath the cold Pacific waters.       

“We didn’t know what to expect,” says #17 Shawn McBride, Captain of the Grizzlies.

“We didn’t really know what the Clearance Divers were all about, but we were excited to check it out, and we were all pretty surprised.”

With the sun barely awake, the hockey players took part in the Clearance Diver morning swim, along with students in the current year-long Clearance Diver course.

The one-and-a-half kilometre circuit tested their water skills and endurance.

Seasoned divers showed the novices the sideways swimming technique that takes full advantage of the fins and leg extension.

“Some on the team are good swimmers, but overall it was pretty tough,” McBride acknowledged.

“I don’t think we realized how long it was going to be until we got out there.It was a new type of swimming too. It gives you a sense of respect for what they do.”

After a half hour of water work out, everyone clambered to dry land for a little rope work – a 30 foot climb up a rope line on the training float’s confidence tower, and in water obstacle course.

The Clearance Divers easily zipped up and down the course, while only defenseman #3 Zach Dixon and power forward #16 Dane Gibson of the young hockey players were able to make the feat, all to the rousing applause of their teammates.   

With the fitness portion done, the Grizzlies were treated to a tour of the Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific), which included a look at Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) equipment, and the Hyperbaric Chamber.

During that time they were able to handle bomb disposal equipment, tools, and even don the EOD Bomb Suit.

“It was really cool,” says McBride.

“None of us had seen anything like that before.”

To pay it forward, the hockey team invited divers to their home rink for some on-the-ice action during the afternoon portion of the day’s activity.

In the The Q Centre (formerly Bear Mountain Arena) in Colwood, the two groups were divided into mixed teams for a fun match of “Shinny Hockey”.

“There are some good hockey players in there,” says McBride.

“They scored some good goals, and were keeping the pace pretty well. I was impressed.”

While Team Black came out victorious at 5-3 over Team Yellow, McBride says the real strength came from sharing the bench with the Clearance Divers, who became fast friends.

“There are a lot of similarities between us, I think,” says McBride.

“The training we all go through, to hone our skills in each of our fields, it’s all sort of the same thing. It was great to meet them, and share those experiences and hear some of their stories. They’re great guys.”  

The game ended with a short ceremony at centre ice, where more than 20 Clearance Divers each presented their Junior “A” counterparts with an FDU(P) Coin in recognition of the day, and the new professional relationships that were developed.

So well did their meeting go, the Grizzlies are extending their 30 per cent military ticket discount through the rest of the hockey season for all DND employees.

Admission for children less than 13 years of age remains at only $5.

The Grizzlies next home games are Friday Nov. 21 versus the Nanaimo Clippers, and Sunday, Nov. 23 in the afternoon, versus the Trail Smoke Eaters.

For more information on the Grizzlies and to see their game schedule visit www.victoriagrizzlies.com

Shawn O’Hara
Staff Writer

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