The inaugural season of the Abbotsford Canucks will be special for many people, but arguably none more so than Harman Aujla and Alisha Neger.
We’ve seen a number of firsts within the four home games the club has hosted at the Abbotsford Centre - first goal, first shutout and first fight - but Sunday (Oct. 24) featured a unique moment - the very first proposal.
During a stoppage in play in the second period, the Venier Dental Group’s “Smile of the Day” crowd interaction feature began. It instructs fans to lower their mask and show off their smile.
The camera panned and stopped several times before landing on Aujla, who had been encouraging his girlfriend of three years to stand up and dance to get on camera. Once the lens landed on him, his dancing stopped and he got down on one knee to the shock of Neger.
For those wondering, she did say yes.
“I had no clue [he was going to propose] because when the smile of the game thing went on the screen he’s like ‘stand up let’s get into the smile of the game’ and I was like ‘no, sit down,” she said, laughing. “And then finally it was like okay fine we’ll stand up, stop making a scene. And then I look up to the screen and that’s where I see him down on one knee. And then I turn over and I’m like ‘oh my gosh this is happening’. It just happened so fast. The whole rest of the game I was just like what just happened.”
Aujla admitted there were some nerves, but said hockey has been a big part of their relationship. A Team Canada vs. Team Russia world junior game was one of their first dates.
“We both love watching hockey together,” he said. “I’ve been a diehard Canucks fan since I can remember - there are pictures of me in diapers in ‘94 watching the finals so it just kind of made sense. Especially with the Canucks coming home, we’re both born and raised in Abbotsford and we love this city - this is where we grew up and we just recently moved back.”
Neger said she entered the relationship aware of how important hockey was to Aujla.
“He always told me that hockey is his first love and I can’t compete,” she said, laughing.
Aujla stated that his love has matured over the years and has obviously grown to include Neger.
The plan for the proposal was put in place several weeks ago and Aujla got in touch with Canucks game presentation manager Jen Graham to make it all possible. He was familiar with Graham because he worked with the Abbotsford Heat in the broadcasting field when Graham was in the director of game operations role with the Heat from 2009 to 2014.
Neger found it a little odd that so many of her friends and family were attending that particular day, but decided it was a just an Abbotsford thing.
“Looking back there were so many weird things that I could have caught onto,” she said. “Like earlier in the day he told me I needed to wear makeup to the game, which I never usually do to a hockey game. And then he got tickets for my parents, my sister and her boyfriend and his friend. Normally I catch on to these things but I was just completely surprised.”
The couple said one of the most heartwarming aspects following the proposal was the positivity from other Abbotsford hockey fans. They said people in their section were giving them high-fives and so many people congratulated during and after the game. Aujla, a graduate of Abbotsford Senior Secondary School and Neger, a graduate of Robert Bateman Secondary School, both said they appreciated the local love.
They are planning for a wedding in May of 2023 and the season ticket holders plan to celebrate at many more Canucks games, but Aujla plans to be standing or sitting - not kneeling.