BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mountaintop Hockey Game In B.C. Has Former NHLers Playing Like Kids

12/24/2015 03:19 EST | Updated 12/24/2015 04:59 EST

Twice, Vancouver's Brad Friesen tried to shovel out a mountaintop ice rink for a good, old-fashioned game of hockey in B.C.'s Golden Ears Park.

Both times, he and his friends returned the next day to find cracked ice and a flooded rink.

Then, Friesen found this spot, just below Vickers Peak — about 65 kilometres from Vancouver — and it was pure serendipity.

brad friesen hockey

(YouTube screenshot)

This, Friesen decided, would be the place to have the game he'd been hoping to have for three years.

He and his friends cleared snow off the ice, checked its depth, and dumped buckets of water along the surface to smooth it out, just like a zamboni.

Later that night, Friesen gathered his teams.

"I got back down to Vancouver at about 5 p.m., and started sending out texts to every hockey player I know," he told The Huffington Post B.C. Wednesday. "I asked [former Vancouver Canuck] Manny Malhotra if he wanted to play on a mountain, and he said, 'Yup.'"

Malhotra invited his friends along, including B.C.-based former NHLers Geoff Courtnall and Jim Vandermeer. By next morning, more than a dozen people met at Pitt Lake to be flown about 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) up to the rink by helicopter.

"The excitement level was literally kids in candy stores."

After flying for only a few minutes, the players saw the setting for the first time. (Watch video above.)

"One of the funnest things for me was when the guys finally saw what exactly we were doing. Guys were just actually losing their minds," Friesen said.

"The excitement level was literally kids in candy stores."

brad friesen hockey

(Photo: YouTube screenshot)

The group played on the perfectly green sheet of ice from midday to just before sunset — games Vandermeer says took him on trip down memory lane.

"I grew up in the country with five brothers, and the old man built us a pretty cool ring on top of the hill," the defenceman said of his childhood in Caroline, Alberta. "It was nothing like that the beauty view we had on top of the mountain ... but skating around on that perfect ice — it takes you back."

The player now lives in Delta, B.C., and said he'd never pass on a good ol' game of shinny in the great outdoors.

brad friesen hockey

(Photo: Shayd Johnson)

"I haven't [played] outside since I was kid. Playing pro hockey for 15 years, don't get me wrong, that's awesome. But after this experience, yeah, you could say you miss [playing outdoors,]" he said.

"Anything you do that can bring you back to that pure love of game and pure fun with other players ... it was just a real throwback."

For Friesen, flying athletes around the province to play their game is a dream.

He's done it with national figure skater Elizabeth Putnam, and was a mountaintop player himself after winning Molson Canadian's "Anything for Hockey" contest earlier this year.

"Everyone I talked to was unbelievably grateful."

"To watch guys that have dedicated their whole lives to a sport do their thing in one of the coolest settings in the world — that's my fun," said Friesen, who estimated that the whole trip cost him about $500. "I'm born and raised in B.C. I love this province, love [Vancouver,] and I love showing people what's back there.

Someday, I would love to fly a gold-medal winner up to the top and let them do their thing. That's my dream — to one day get the best people in the world to do their things in the best setting in the world."

As for Vandermeer, he said he'd be up for a return trip anytime.

"Everyone I talked to was unbelievably grateful," he said. "If [Friesen] ever decides to get something else going, he should definitely give me a call."

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B.C. Mountaintop Hockey Game