After two days off the ice, the Carolina Hurricanes returned to practice Wednesday with some invited guests at PNC Arena: 9,000 screaming school kids.
As part of its “Readvolution” program to promote reading in schools, the Hurricanes had elementary school students from 11 Wake County High Schools in for what they called a “Cool School Field Trip.” It was loud and it was lively, making communication on the ice a lot tougher that usual but providing a lot of energy.
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“It was fun,” Canes forward Lee Stempniak said. “We could hear them screaming an hour before practice started, when we were in our meeting.
“I would have died for a chance for something like that as a little kid. From our perspective, the more kids you can get exposed to hockey, maybe they catch the bug whether they want to play or come to games or play street hockey. Just try to grow the game.”
Winless in their last three games (0-2-1), the Canes had four days between Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils and the game Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, both at PNC Arena. Canes coach Bill Peters called off one scheduled practice and the players had the other as an off-day.
The Readvolution program was a challenge to kids in 114 elementary schools to read 2,020 books from Oct. 2 through Jan. 12., requiring each student do 20 minutes of reading outside the classroom each day during the first semester. Schools that collectively read 2,020 books were entered by region to take part in Wednesday’s field trip.
The Hurricanes said 258,320 books were read by elementary students and 51 schools met or surpassed the 2,020 goal. Carpenter Elementary (14,292) and Weatherstone Elementary (12,932) had the highest total of books read.
The school buses rolled in Wednesday and the students filled the lower bowl.
“That was a lot of fun, a good environment and very loud,” Peters said. “I liked it.”
And when the players couldn’t hear Peters above the din?
“You hopefully got the gist of what he wanted and you’d just go with it,” center Jordan Staal said, smiling.