In what may have been the largest off-island migration of Bowen Islanders, 370 boarded the Queen of Cap last Sunday, Oct. 2 more than 10 per cent of Bowen - and headed to the newly refurbished B.C. Place Stadium for the first Vancouver Whitecaps game there in 27 years.
Burns Jennings from Bowen Island Football Club said 67 were Bowen kids who participated in the opening ceremonies in a program called 'Kickin' It with the Caps.' There were 22 player escorts, 12 flag bearers, 21 high-fivers and 12 were ball retrievers throughout the game.
"I had chills running through my spine as I saw our children on the big screen singing the National Anthem with pride," Jennings said in an email interview. "We all wore our BIFC kit with pride and showed Vancouver the spirit and dedication our club has for this wonderful game."
Those who were escorts walked out onto the field with a player and stayed throughout the national anthems and nine-year-old Claire Squire said it was fun being in front of the over 21,000 spectators. Squire, who plays for coach Ellie Mackay's U-10 girls team, said it was easy to learn what to do.
"They just told us to just stand and not to run, even though we did run a little anyway," said Squire. "It was kind of a bit weird when we first got out there, like in front of all those people, but after a while it felt pretty normal." Squire added that she'd be happy to do it again some time.
Peter Blomberg, 13, was a ball boy and also got an unplanned opportunity to warm up Whitecap keeper Joe Cannon before the second half. "We were behind his net and he comes over and checks Marlon's ball and it was soft so he comes over to me and mine was good," Bloomberg said. "So he's like 'hop over the fence and come and take some shots.' It was sweet."
The 'Caps lost to Portland 1-0 but it was a well played match. Big Whitecap striker Eric Hassli provided dramatics in the form of a yellow card (his 8th of the season to go with three reds) and a little turf pounding when he missed a chance to equalize. Bowen's Blomberg must have done well warming up Cannon as the goalie made a great save early in that second half to keep his team one goal down.
Whitecaps Jeb Brovsky told the Undercurrent in the dressing room that Bowen kids were a highlight of the opening ceremonies.
It wasn't the first time Bowen had this chance. A largely different batch of island kids performed in the same roles in July when Manchester City came to town for a friendly.
Jennings said the Whitecaps "worked tirelessly" to organize the event and treated our kids exceptionally. He passed along a thanks to Whitecap worker Hugh Hamilton "and his crew" for all they did and marvelled at how much fun the children had. It was, he said, a great growing experience for them.
"It has been an honour to watch our players become good stewards of the "beautiful game" and (Oct. 2) will surely be planted in the memories of all involved for many years," he said.