Rogers’ experience one for memory books

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St. Paul Atom 2 and 3 teams had an experience of a lifetime, when they headed to Rogers Place last Thursday night to play a friendly match and watch the Oil Kings before heading back to St. Paul late into the night.

“There were kids saying it was the best day of their life,” said a jubilant Atom 2 team manager and trip organizer Joleen Bendera-Sabatier on the morning after the big night.

As part of the Oil Kings Group Experience, hockey teams can request to play a hockey game at what’s billed as “the most spectacular arena in junior hockey: Rogers Place,” followed by watching an Oil Kings game.

After Bendera-Sabatier found out her team was selected to take part, she invited the other Atom team to join as well, to take part in a friendly match, with the Atom 2s and 3s split into two equally matched teams.

The kids got the full NHL big-time experience, with each kid introduced over the speakers as they entered the ice, and getting to sit on the NHL teams’ benches.

“They played as friends and respected each other,” said Bendara-Sabatier, noting that after an evenly-matched game, there was no bragging from any of the kids about key moments in the game, but rather, just a shared enjoyment in the excitement of playing at such a grand venue. “They were all so proud and happy. It was quite a moment for them. It was fantastic.”

Going to see an Oilers’ game can be an expensive proposition and Bendera-Sabatier says that up until last Thursday night, half the kids had never been to the Rogers Arena before. In comparison, watching the Oil Kings is much more affordable, at $18 a ticket, with 220 tickets sold between the two teams and those accompanying them on the journey.

“In my opinion, it’s just as good – it’s great hockey,” she said of the Oil Kings’ experience, adding that the kids got to see themselves on the jumbotron, which was also a “huge moment.”

“We were just screaming, waving our hands, and doing weird stuff,” said 10-year-old Logan Renauld about seeing himself and his friends on the jumbotron. He proudly displayed his game night puck, which his coach gave to him after he scored four goals on the night.

“It was your dream to score in Rogers Place and you did,” noted his mom, Tammy Roeder-Renauld, with Logan nodding in agreement.

Fellow hockey player 10-year-old Bryce Erasmus also said scoring was a high point of the night, but the whole night was “really fun,” he said, adding, “It was a good experience.”

The bus ride home was a long one, with the kids buzzing over the excitement of the night, but it was all worth it, as Bendera-Sabatier says –

“The moments that happened, will never happen again.”

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