They thought it would just be another normal Friday evening practice. It was anything but.

Members of the Vancouver Angels Novice C1 hockey team, comprised of girls aged seven and eight years old – received the surprise of the hockey season when they got to see the Stanley Cup up close before their practice at the Killarney Community Centre.

“That was awesome,” exclaimed Rachel, who was the Angels’ goalie for the skate.

As part of the Scotiabank Community Hockey Sponsorship Program, the Angels are one of five minor hockey teams across the country randomly selected to have the Stanley Cup brought to their practice.

None of the players knew, and only a handful of parents were in on the surprise.

“I think they were in shock,” said head coach Todd Hickling.

“I’ve been like a kid at Christmas. Last night I woke up about 10 times – ‘Is it here yet? Is it time yet, is it time yet?’

“I’ve been so excited and I’ve been ready to bust because we haven’t been able to tell anybody.”

Players suited up in their pads and uniforms before being ushered into another dressing room, where hockey’s Holy Grail stood shining brightly on a table.

Their expressions at first were mostly of bewilderment. What was the Stanley Cup doing in the dressing room, and what were the girls supposed to do? Touch it? Stand around, smile and bask in its glow?

It was the latter at first. But, at the encouragement of their coach, the girls quickly warmed up to the Cup, standing around, putting their hands on it, looking at the names and teams that line its silver circumference.

Some kissed it, others declined. Family members, including young siblings, filtered into the room, pulled out camera phones and shot photos and video, as their daughters beamed.

While the youngsters celebrated inside the dressing room and then headed out to the ice for a team photo with the Stanley Cup, the ongoing labour dispute between the NHL and its players’ association was not lost on Hickling.

There is the chance that no NHL players gets to hoist the chalice at the end of the playoffs.

“The hockey at the grassroots level is what it’s all about,” said the coach.

“I wouldn’t take sides on the NHL dispute, but when you see this it really reminds you of what the game’s all about.”

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