Ice Pilots reality show recaptures NHLers’ northern tour (with video)

 

 
 
 
 
Senators players Zack Smith and Marc Methot don ice pilot headgear as they get into the spirit of flying in the Second World War-era DC3 that carried them to Deline from Yellowknife during the Northern Lights Dream tour in November 2012. Seated behind them are former Dartmouth College goalie Jody O’Neil of Nepean and Senators netminder Craig Anderson.
 

Senators players Zack Smith and Marc Methot don ice pilot headgear as they get into the spirit of flying in the Second World War-era DC3 that carried them to Deline from Yellowknife during the Northern Lights Dream tour in November 2012. Seated behind them are former Dartmouth College goalie Jody O’Neil of Nepean and Senators netminder Craig Anderson.

Photograph by: JULIE OLIVER, OTTAWA CITIZEN

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Craig Anderson says last November’s First Assist Charity Tour to the Northwest Territories was a chance to see a remote part of the world and a radically different way of life.

Chris Phillips and Chris Neil revelled in history lessons and the unique cultural experience.

For Marc Methot and Zack Smith, it was all that and goofy ice pilot hats, too.

On Wednesday night, reality TV fans will receive a peak at what the Ottawa Senators players and a few other locked-out NHLers experienced on the adventure, a weeklong trek that was well documented by the Citizen at the time.

The History Channel series Ice Pilots NWT (10 p.m. ET) takes viewers on board the Buffalo Airways’ Douglas DC3 that carried the NHL players from Yellowknife to the fly-in-only community of Deline. The same 61-year-old plane carried paratroopers over Normandy during the Second World War and was a far cry from the well-appointed charter jets that typically carry NHL players from city to city.

This episode will also provide a glimpse of what the appearance of NHL players meant to Deline, a community of 600 along the shores of Great Bear Lake and a place that makes a substantial claim to being the true birthplace of hockey in 1825. The NHLers took part in native dances and games, went dogsledding and trout fishing and skated on the historic ice. They dined on food ranging from caribou stew to reindeer to Arctic char.

“They took you out of your comfort zone,” Methot, recalling the experience, said earlier this week. “None of us knew what we were doing. Some of us weren’t properly dressed or well prepared for that aspect of the cold weather. It makes you really appreciate how those people are able to thrive up there in those conditions.”

Methot knew there were cameras around at various times during the trip, but he has no idea what ended up being captured for the reality TV audience or whether he’ll be shown wearing “the ridiculous hats” he purchased while taking in anything and everything about the north.

“They were filming us on the plane, but I don’t know what kind of stuff they have on us,” Methot says. “I’m hoping it will be pretty PG. Looking back, and now that it’s a reality (show), I’m thinking, ‘Are people actually going to see this?’ ”

Spoiler alert: Those with sensitive ears or young children around might hear an off-colour word or two from the hockey players and Buffalo Airways employees. And, yes, Methot, Smith and Ottawa native Grant Clitsome, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets, are caught sporting unique headgear.

There’s also some honest give-and-take between Neil, Clitsome and a pilot who is clearly not in awe of big-league hockey players.

Thinking back, Neil says it was a once in a lifetime experience, a road trip that will probably never be repeated.

“It was a fun time,” he says. “We were in the middle of the crappy state of the NHL at the time, and we made the most of it. We did some charity stuff and it was a great experience to witness other cultures and how other people live.

“We flew on a play that flew on D-Day. It was unbelievable. We were sitting on a plane where paratroopers sat.”

Anderson, who spent most of the lockout at his off-season home in Fort Lauderdale, laughs when he recalls flying “from the southern tip of Florida to the northern tip of Canada,” and the 21-hour return trek from Whitehorse.

“I think we created a lot of fans by doing that, letting them get to know us a little bit,” Anderson says. “Just to venture out, to do something you don’t normally do. We’re so routine. Our days are pretty much planned out nine months of the year.”

Like Methot and Neil, Anderson hopes he’s portrayed well on reality TV.

“I don’t know if I have any one liners in there, like Neil or Methot, but I think I might see my head on there a bit,” he says.

The show also contains some game action involving Anderson and some skaters naturally thrilled about the chance to shoot against an NHL goaltender.

“Everyone’s still talking about the trip,” says Mikey McBryan, the charismatic general manager of Buffalo Airways and reality TV star of IcePilots NWT. “It was a funny thing. It was a fish out of water experience for a lot of the guys. They have super achievements on the ice, but they were super out of their element up here.”

Ultimately, it was a success because it raised funds and awareness for First Assist, a charity run by former Montreal Canadiens forward, NHL and junior coach John Chabot, designed to expose First Nations children to a different world away from the countless problems they face in the north.

“We’ve got to keep it going,” says tour organizer Chabot, who has returned to the north six times since the NHL charity tour. “We got a lot of momentum from the trip, a lot of good will, but it also takes a little patience to get to where we want to be.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

 
 
 
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Senators players Zack Smith and Marc Methot don ice pilot headgear as they get into the spirit of flying in the Second World War-era DC3 that carried them to Deline from Yellowknife during the Northern Lights Dream tour in November 2012. Seated behind them are former Dartmouth College goalie Jody O’Neil of Nepean and Senators netminder Craig Anderson.
 

Senators players Zack Smith and Marc Methot don ice pilot headgear as they get into the spirit of flying in the Second World War-era DC3 that carried them to Deline from Yellowknife during the Northern Lights Dream tour in November 2012. Seated behind them are former Dartmouth College goalie Jody O’Neil of Nepean and Senators netminder Craig Anderson.

Photograph by: JULIE OLIVER, OTTAWA CITIZEN

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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