Students of Surrey Schools Welcome Centre and others with Canucks alumni player Kirk McLean (back row, fourth from left) at the preseason game Oct. 7, 2022, at Rogers Arena. (Photo: surreyschools.ca)

Students of Surrey Schools Welcome Centre and others with Canucks alumni player Kirk McLean (back row, fourth from left) at the preseason game Oct. 7, 2022, at Rogers Arena. (Photo: surreyschools.ca)

Free suite seats at Canucks game for new-to-Canada students in Surrey school program

‘Imagine that, only being six weeks in Canada and to go to a Canucks game, a full stadium…’

For some Surrey-area youngsters new to Canada, a recent Canucks game offered an unforgettable introduction to hockey.

Students of Surrey Schools Welcome Centre were treated to a free suite and catering when Vancouver’s NHL team hosted Phoenix Coyotes in a preseason game Oct. 7 at Rogers Arena.

Canucks management sent the invitation to Surrey Schools, with a limited number of spots available.

“It was fantastic from start to the end, I cannot tell you how much fun the newcomers had,” said Faizur Sahebzadah, a settlement worker at the Welcome Centre. “They were so appreciative from the start until the end.”

Students and families from Afghanistan, China, India and Taiwan took in the action from suite, visited by team mascot Fin and Canucks alumni player Kirk McLean.

One of the families, from Afghanistan, had arrived in Canada just six weeks previous, after fleeing that country’s Taliban government.

“Imagine that, only being six weeks in Canada and to go to a Canucks game, a full stadium, you’re in the suite with catering, unbelievable food, and then on top of that, to be paid a visit from a Canucks hall-of-famer,” said Sahebzadah.

“At first the guests didn’t really know who he was, but when I explained who he was and how big of a deal he was here in Vancouver by relating it to the equivalent of some sports stars from back in Afghanistan, they became very excited and asked for pictures to show their friends.”

For Tony Ta and son Eddie, who immigrated here from China, it was their first time watching hockey in any capacity. “We enjoyed that a lot, the music, the crowd and the cheering,” Ta said.

The Canucks also donated 40 tickets for students from the district’s Community Schools Partnership programs to attend the game.

“When the Canadian anthem played, the family from Afghanistan (put) their hands over their hearts, and that was something I’d never told them about,” recalled Sahebzadah. “They are already embracing their new country and wanted to show gratitude, which was really amazing to see.”

The Canucks beat the Coyotes 4-0 that Friday night.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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