The capacity of Rogers Arena in Vancouver is 18,910, and thousands more watch Vancouver Canucks games on TV.
All of those eyeballs will see the Sardis secondary school Drumline in action during the 2021-22 National Hockey League season. Members of the drumline will be travelling into Vancouver for each of the 41 Canucks home games, starting with a Tuesday night (Oct. 26) game against the Minnesota Wild.
The Chilliwack youths will be performing on the ice and on the concourse.
“It’s an awesome press opportunity for us,” said Grade 12 student Thomas Mordaunt, one of the ‘veterans’ on the young team. “The drumline played at the 2012 (Winter) Olympics (in Vancouver), and played some Canucks games around 10 years ago too, so it feels like we’re going to be bringing the drumline back up to that level after being in a lull for a few years.”
Nervous members of the team gathered Friday after school for a rehearsal, and journeyed to Abbotsford that night for an appearance at the Abbotsford Canucks home opener. With so many new members, every moment of prep counts before hitting the big stage.
“About half our the group is returning from last year,” Mordaunt said. “The entire bass drum line is new. About half the cymbals, almost all the tenors and two or three snares are all new.
“But what I’ve always told everyone is, ‘Nobody cares how good you play. All that they care about is how well you entertain. If you have lots of energy and look like you’re playing it right, most people won’t be able to tell the difference. So, while playing perfect parts is helpful, the most crucial part is to be engaging.”
Mordaunt played a Canucks game once before, back in Grade 9. He described it as a nerve-wracking experience, but also tons of fun.
“Having the Jumbotron zoom in on each person’s face, and seeing yours on that huge screen, it was like ‘There’s 18,000 people staring at me right now,’” he said with a laugh.
Emily Werner, a Grade 10 student who is leading the bass drummers in her first year with the senior team, said she worries about doing her part correctly.
“But most of all I worry about slipping on the ice,” she added. “I was on the ice at a (Chilliwack) Chiefs game a few weeks ago, and fortunately it (the ice) was pretty cut up from the hockey, so it wasn’t a problem. You just have to avoid the goalie areas.”
This is going to be a big time commitment for teenagers who have other things like jobs and homework to worry about, which is why the entire team or 25-30 students won’t be going into the city. Each game will feature six or seven drum liners, “creating energy and fun for the fan experience.”
They’ll be on the concourse. They’ll play during television advertising breaks and entertain the crowd between periods.
“I’ve not played a gig with a group that small. It sounds a lot different and you have to play a lot louder. It’s a challenge, but it’s also exciting,” said Werner, who loves songs that include lots of movement and yelling. “I haven’t had a chance to play in front of a crowd this big either, but it’s always cool to look up and see people enjoying what you’re playing. You’re the star of that one moment.”
The ongoing gig will be a huge revenue generator. The drum line will be paid per game, with money going to equipment upgrades and repairs.
The drumline has been at Sardis secondary since the late 1990s since being developed by Bruno Gagnon.