One young Campbell River hockey player – and fan – recently had a very, very good day down in Anaheim.
Mackinley Whalen, 11, picked up on Ryan Kesler when he was a Vancouver Canuck. She wasn’t really a fan of the team – her parents are both Montreal Canadiens fans, after all – but she certainly did like “that number 17 guy,” she says, and when he was traded to Anaheim, her fandom followed.
“If he was traded to Toronto, I’d probably be a Leafs fan,” she says.
“No you wouldn’t,” interrupts her mom April, half-jokingly.
So when Kesler went down with injury earlier this season, she decided to write him a letter wishing him a speedy recovery and letting him know they were going to be down that way with tickets to a pair of games.
“At first I was sad that you will not be playing,” the letter reads, “but I just want you to get better soon. If you are around the arena for those games and feel like some popcorn I’m willing to share mine with you.”
The letter included her seat number for each game.
Apparently, April had added her cell number to the letter before it was sent, because she got a text message from Kesler letting them know he planned on joining them during the Ducks/Predators game Nov. 3. She didn’t tell Mackinley, though, because she thought it would be better as a surprise.
“It was so awesome,” Mackinley says. “He came down and I thought, ‘is this a fake person trying to tease me or a joke or something?’ but then he sat with me and had popcorn…and watched almost the full period with me.”
“He was so down to Earth and engaging,” April says. “He was genuinely interested in everything she had to say. Even my husband said, ‘I wanted to hate the guy, but I couldn’t. He was so nice.’”
The Whalen’s go down to the U.S. fairly frequently to watch hockey, because it’s actually significantly less expensive than going over for a game in Vancouver.
“We can fly down to Anaheim or Florida for a game and including the flights and hotels it’s still cheaper than going to a Canucks home game,” April says. “You can get into a game down there for like $16.”
And while they’re down there watching hockey, they can see some other things, as well.
“My mom made me go to Disneyland,” Mackinley says. “But I just wanted to watch hockey.”
Mckinley is quite the athlete herself. She plays for two local hockey teams – one mixed and one girls’ team – as well as being as burgeoning golfer. She is currently enrolled in a golf academy in Parksville with hopes to maybe one day become a professional golfer.
“But I’d like to play hockey professionally, too,” she says. “I like golf, but I love hockey. It’s my passion.”