(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) It takes focus, accountability and endurance to fly with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
“It feels like we just played a Game 7 double overtime,” said Warriors forward Luke Ormsby after being taken for the ride of his life on Tuesday.
For the past eight seasons, the Warriors have developed a strong partnership and bond with the Snowbirds. That partnership was put on display thousands of feet above Moose Jaw on Tuesday as the local Western Hockey League team flew with Canada’s air demonstration team.
“You see them perform from the ground, but when you’re up there and you see how close they are, the amount of effort it takes and the precision it takes, it’s really incredible,” said Warriors forward Justin Almeida.
Each season, the entire Warriors’ team has the opportunity to spend the day out at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, learning about what it takes to perform a routine in the sky.
This year, four players — Almeida, Ormsby, Tristin Langan and Brodan Salmond — were able to fly with the Snowbirds and see firsthand what the best pilots in the Royal Canadian Air Force are able to do.
“It was amazing,” said Langan, the Warriors’ leading scorer. “Seeing it these last few years, it was always awesome watching from the ground, but getting in there and going for the ride with them is an unreal experience. Words can’t describe it when they’re doing flips and you can hear them communicating, it’s awesome.”
The partnership is about sharing experiences between the two teams.
Throughout the day, the Warriors sat in on the Snowbirds’ pre-flight meeting where they run through every maneuver, as well as the post-flight debrief where they discuss where they can improve going into their next practice or show.
“Their preparation is crazy, they’re dialled in, everyone knows their job and they work together well,” said Salmond.
Snowbirds Team Lead, Major Denis Bandet said that they try to demonstrate the teamwork that they need each and every day.
“Many people can go to an airshow and see the finished product, what [the Warriors] are seeing today is the building process and they can relate as a hockey team and what it takes to build a good, strong team, and that’s what we’re doing here as well,” said Bandet.
Bandet added that they didn’t let up during the flight either, “It was a full-up Snowbirds training mission, lots of G, lots of repetition, it’s a workout for seasoned pilots and the guys that came flying with us handled it like a champ,” he said.
Ormsby, who’s in his first season with the Warriors, has experience piloting a plane himself but he said that was nothing compared to what he experienced during Tuesday’s flight.
“I had a lot of thoughts going into today and they were all shattered, in good ways, and my amount of respect for what these guys do is just through the roof,” he said.
Coming up next month, the Snowbirds will join the Warriors for a pre-game skate at Mosaic Place, sit on the team’s pre-game meetings and then take in the game action.
The Warriors will return to the ice coming up on Thursday when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings at Mosaic Place.