Grizzlies take the plunge with divers

Hockey players from the Victoria Grizzlies complete their morning training session at Fleet Diving  Unit Pacific by navigating a rope bridge.

Hockey players from the Victoria Grizzlies complete their morning training session at Fleet Diving
Unit Pacific by navigating a rope bridge.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer

Players from the Victoria Grizzlies Junior A hockey team in Colwood traded skates for wet suits Nov. 3 when they stepped into the world of Navy Clearance Divers.

This annual event is offered to the BCHL hockey club as an outreach piece to show the young hockey players an aspect of military training, leadership and teamwork that exists just a short walk from the team’s home arena, the nearby Q Centre.

Just like navy divers in training, the players suited up and plunged into Esquimalt Harbour for the daily fitness drill known as “The Morning Swim.”

On the shore, Fleet Diving Unit Pacific Training Officer Lt(N) Walter Dubeau barked instructions and encouragement.

More teamwork was tested when the players divided into two teams and climbed on to a rope bridge suspended above the water.  Balance and strength were assessed.

From the vantage of the shore, Lt(N) Dubeau spoke to the correlation between teamwork used by his divers and that of a professional hockey team.

“Teamwork is part of everything we do in the Fleet Diving Unit. We have to work together; our entire training manual speaks to this. If you don’t have teamwork then [clearance] tasks cannot be completed. It’s the same in hockey.”

Those tasks are not simple ones; they require the full engagement of the team to ensure a diver’s safety, whether it is cutting and welding the bottom of a ship or rendering sea mines safe with underwater explosives.

“Truth be told, they [navy divers] work much harder than us,” said Grizzlies’ Jake Stevens, 18, a defencemen from Chicago Illinois. “The only thing that keeps them going in their rigorous training is their will and desire.”

He says what he and his teammates face on the ice during the six-day recruitment selection process pales in comparison to the 11-and-a-half month Clearance Diver Training Program.

After drying off, the players were given a tour of the Colwood facility, including the Recompression Chamber and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) facilities. They even watched the unit’s bomb disposal team locate and detonate a simulated Improvised Explosive Device.

In the afternoon, the Clearance Divers and RAdm Gilles Couturier joined the Grizzlies for a  mixed-team scrimmage at the Q Centre to close out their day.  At the end of the game, the Clearance Divers each offered a coveted Clearance Diver coin to each of the players as a memento for the day.

“It’s unbelievable, after coming here and seeing what they do,” said 19-year-old defenceman Cody Van Lierop. “I have so much more respect for these men and women in the navy and what they do for their country.”

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