SKATE WITH MCDAVID

On the morning of Sunday, January 22nd, I found myself at the hockey rink. Not exactly breaking news, weekends at hockey rinks are a second home for Canadians, but this day was unusual for one gigantic reason. Along with many Moms and Dads (and about 35 kids, age 8-12), I had been invited to spend a morning at Rogers Place with ‘an Edmonton Oilers player’ whose identity would be revealed on arrival.

CIBC had been reaching out to clients and community partners – such as Hockey Heroes – over the previous months, offering a special experience to young people across Northern Alberta. I was among the very few people at Rogers Place that morning who knew the identity of the Oilers player—Connor McDavid. Unknown to me and the other gathered guests, we were about to witness a fun morning that would be captured, edited and presented online as part of an innovative ongoing series.

Youngsters arrived early with their Moms and Dads, spent a few minutes milling about, grabbing coffee and donuts, and then kids headed to dressing rooms to get ready for the morning skate. This took place at the Rogers Place community arena, it is a fabulous facility and I imagine there will be many local teams of all ages using the ice in the months and years to come.

I was in the hallway outside the dressing rooms when Connor McDavid emerged and made his way to each dressing room. I don’t know exactly what was said, but the loud cheers that came from both was an amazing moment. Not only were these youngsters going to skate on Rogers Place community ice, they would also get a chance to skate with and against Connor McDavid! Everyone got a Skate with McDavid jersey, with their name on the back. Every player was professionally introduced over the PA, and all who attended were treated with an outstanding rendition of O Canada (how anyone can sing that well at 8 in the morning is beyond me).

The action on the ice went on for a full 30 minutes, with McDavid playing exactly half of the time with each side. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 12, and of course had varying degrees of ability. McDavid is a competitive sort, and delivered some amazing moves while playing at half speed, but he also made sure all of the kids had success and enjoyed themselves. These young boys and girls would gladly have been there no matter the circumstances, but 97 took a shift with and against every player, and tested all goalies (the goaltending was excellent, I mean it really was terrific).

I spoke to Jesse’s Dad about his boy, who appeared to be the youngest in the group. ‘We had no idea he would be skating with Connor McDavid, we had no idea until five minutes before he went out on the ice. The reaction was total excitement, it was unbelievable. My son is going to be over the moon, and I imagine he will get an autograph and it will be in his room forever. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.’

The kids reaction to the event was obvious from the smiles on faces, and Connor McDavid enjoyed himself too. I wondered why this type of event to profile CIBC and McDavid? Andrew Greenlaw (from CIBC, who leads the Bank’s relationship with Connor) mentioned that the event reflects where Connor is most himself: on the ice and having fun with kids vs. delivering a keynote to a large audience where Connor jokes ‘he’d probably put people to sleep’.  The Orr Hockey Group (Agency/Jeff Jackson who represents Connor), Cimoroni & Company (marketing agency supporting the Orr Group clients) along with Connor are all engaged to ensure there’s an authentic fit, and even more important, that it doesn’t distract from his focus on the team/winning.

Said Greenlaw: “Connor does these events in part because of his desire to grow the game, to inspire kids and because of his family’s longtime relationship with, and loyalty to, CIBC.  I get asked a lot about what Connor is like away from the ice and I always say ‘great guy’… Very personable, down to earth, modest and an obvious love for hockey and winning.  He has clearly been raised well by his parents (Kelly & Brian) and older brother (Cam).  They’re a great family, and Connor has worked hard and deserves all the accolades he’s getting and will continue to receive over his career. But you won’t hear him talk about anything other than the team.  And he has the right support system around him (Orr Group & Cimoroni & Company)”.     

I was close enough to the bench to hear some of the back and forth, and McDavid seemed very comfortable with the kids, and, after a time, they with him. You know, it wasn’t so very long ago that he was their age and he mentioned to me afterward that he approached it from that point of view. Connor McDavid: “I think back to when I was a kid, if the roles were reversed, that’s the way I would like to be treated by someone I looked up to” and that is exactly how it looked from afar.

After the on-ice session, Connor McDavid patiently signed autographs and took photos (for a long, long time) with the kids and their parents. The young man has more patience than I do, and seemed to enjoy himself during the entire event.

The kids were on cloud nine, as you might imagine. Testing their abilities with (and against) the greatest young player in the game would be a thrill for anyone, but for someone their age, it was a truly unique experience. I talked to some of the kids afterward about the event, and they seemed excited about two things: Meeting Connor McDavid, and being a part of the filming going on around them.

CIBC and the McDavid family have had a long relationship, and used the morning at Rogers Place to roll out a new campaign in celebration of Canada’s (and CIBC’s, as I learned) shared 150th, asking Canadians to show/share how they #StandForCanada. The game we love and its emerging superstar – and proud Canadian (and someone we should be proud to call our own!) – combining to reflect the fabric of our country and the things we hold dear. Fresh faces and iconic hockey players have been a part of Canadian advertising seemingly forever, and this event continues that in a less scripted, more natural way.

It was a great experience for me, to meet some of the parents and the hard-working individuals behind the scenes. To talk to the parents, and to Connor McDavid on several subjects (I will have a few quotes from him on various things in the days to come). I am thankful to have been a part of a special, unforgettable morning for everyone involved, and am certain the kids and adults will remember it for a very long time. My sincere thanks to CIBC, The Orr Hockey Group, Cimoroni & Company and Fadoo Productions.

I discussed the idea behind Skate with McDavid with Mr. Greenlaw.

  • Lowetide: Once the video is produced, what kind of reaction do you anticipate?
  • Andrew Greenlaw: “This will be the fifth piece of content that we’ve done featuring Connor and they have generated an average of a few million views each and very positive feedback/engagement.  There is a significant demand, across Canada, to consume content that allows people to get to know Connor ‘off the ice’ (at least the professional ice!).”
  • Lowetide: As these content pieces get that kind of audience, will there be more?
  • Andrew Greenlaw: “Yes! Whether it’s creating a community event, such as ‘Skate with McDavid’, to surprise a group of kids or showcasing – in a fun and authentic way – how CIBC fits Connor’s life… we are always looking for engaging ways to share our relationship with him.  2017 is an especially exciting opportunity as we celebrate Canada & CIBC’s shared 150th – and what better ambassador than Connor McDavid!”

No shins were harmed in the making of this video. Enjoy!

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18 Responses to "SKATE WITH MCDAVID"

  1. dustrock says:

    Really cool LT, thanks.

  2. DaveWatchesHockey says:

    Best. Blog. Ever.

  3. kinger_OIL says:

    – Great post LT! Yesterday I was saying how great this blog is because of the stories we share that often serve as reminders about how to lead one’s lives: then you go and post this beaut about a remarkable young Man: conducting himself in the manner we all should.

    – Thanks agin: now this eveneing we are off to the Mullet March Florida Panthers game for $19 a pop: Bidness in the front, party in the back!

    – Buddy at the ticket desk says:” sure come on down, lots of seats available!

  4. jfry says:

    Please click on some of the links in the article, everyone. Cheers lt.

  5. Ribs says:

    Yikes. I don’t know what’s creepier now. Hunter the lynx or the giant undead CIBC penguin…

    Sounds like an awesome event. Brings me back to my childhood when I got to skate with Kevin Lowe and his wife with a bunch of other kids in WEM for a Skate for Heart charity event. It’s something I will surely never forget, and I’m sure these kids will be sharing this story forever as well. Super cool that they will have video of the whole thing!

  6. GBandQ says:

    Amazing.
    And the look on those kids faces when #97 walks into the dressing room! 😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😀😀🏒👍🏼

  7. Diablo says:

    GBandQ:
    Amazing.
    And the look on those kids faces when #97 walks into the dressing room! 😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😯😀😀🏒👍🏼

    Priceless.

  8. Bank Shot says:

    Nice experience. 🙂

    Did you ask Mcdavid why he doesn’t shoot more? haha

  9. Southern Oil says:

    Boy does this take me back to when I was a kid. I never got the chance to skate with the Great One (did have some amazing experiences – went to my neighbor’s house and unknown to me at the time, but Lord Stanley was sitting on the hearth of the fireplace – they were friends with Ken Lowe) but held him in the same space as those kids must hold McDavid. What a great story. Amazing that he is so down to earth. Great parents. Thanks for sharing LT.

  10. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Bank Shot:
    Nice experience.

    Did you ask Mcdavid why he doesn’t shoot more? haha

    Now this made me laugh. But that whole damn post made me smile. Good stuff.

  11. Clay says:

    If Connor’s parents wrote a book on parenting, I’d buy it. They did a lot right. His sense of community and selflessness, at his age, is truly fantastic.

  12. Diesel says:

    Well done. Really captured the spirit of the event from what I can see.

    Also, the commercials with Percy are witty enough not to make me cringe. That’s an achievement in itself given the vanilla expectation.

  13. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    Nice work LT.

    How did you get invited?

  14. Lowetide says:

    One of the individuals involved in the planning reads this blog, and thought it might be an interesting way to give some background on things.

  15. Mantis says:

    Fantastic LT – thank you for sharing this with us!

  16. Gino says:

    This is just awesome. I can just imagine being among one of the young kids not only seeing McDavid but playing in a game with him. Let’s hope more events such as this continue in the future.

  17. doritogrande says:

    The greatest hockey players are almost always among the most respectable people you can find. I have my own similar experience with one of Canada’s greatest.

    I was lucky enough to be able to attend that 2007 Canada-Russia Super Series with my dad. The game (and series) was out of reach early, and being 20 at the time I was thoroughly enjoying letting my national pride flow. A young Sam Gagner was leading the way during the series, I remember being beyond thrilled knowing that he would be Oilers property.

    We come to intermission, I’m getting back to my seat when I look over a couple of sections and see a crowd forming, hands being shaken and pictures taken. After a couple of glances over I recognize who’s causing all the commotion. 20-year old world junior hero Jonathon Toews is signing autographs in his hometown arena. I was able to make my way over and was lucky enough to get a picture of the two of us. Just a couple of guys, no hint of a brash, I’m-better-than-you-all attitude; instead a genuine appreciation for everyone who loves to watch him play hockey. This impromptu session lasted the entire intermission and would likely have continued into the next period if event staff hadn’t gone over and cleared everyone out. You could see Toews was a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to continue with the rest of the people who had been lining up or mingling around waiting for their chance for a second with one of Canada’s newest superstars.

    Great guy, cares deeply about his hometown (they’ve named his local arena in his honour in recent years) and, like Connor, makes time to grow the game at the grass roots level.

  18. sumaclab says:

    My wife and I were discussing this very thing on Saturday night. There is a huge worry over what 97s cap hit will be in the next year. My feeling is that 97s cap hit may not be what a lot of floks fear it may be. Why. This article. By this I mean you could pay 97 20% of the cap max. It will be a pittance to what he makes off the ice in the coming years from sponsorships. If 97s folks are smart they see that 97 could take 8 m a year in salary. He will make 3x that a year in sponsorship deals. Do you take less so your team is able to win more for longer. Or do you take more to win less but line your own pockets. If its me you take less. Winning Cups increases your value to sponsors. Whereas losing is not what sponsors like to link themselves with usually. Conner will be a rich man. How he chooses to get that wealth is his choice.

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