When two members of the West Hill Golden Hawks U14 Select Team were stranded on Highway 400 and couldn’t get to their championship game, two parents quickly concocted a plan to extract them from the traffic backup. The players arrived at the arena with seconds to spare and the team went on to win the game.

By Mark Campbell

Sometimes things do not always go as planned. And sometimes seemingly ordinary circumstances have extraordinary endings. Both can be said of the West Hill Golden Hawks U14 Select Team’s experience at the Bradford Bulldogs Blue & Gold Tournament last month.

Having swept the round robin portion of the hockey tournament, the team was on route to the championship game on the morning of Sunday, November 5. The team stayed over the Saturday night at a hotel in Barrie, and for most families the short trip down highway 400 to the Bradford Leisure Centre was uneventful.

Approximately 45 minutes before the game it was noticed that two players, Lucas Peacock and Nathan Baranov, weren’t there. A quick phone call revealed that after missing a turnoff on the highway, they were now stuck in a traffic backup that could last for hours.

Head Coach Michael Murphy’s first thought was, “Oh boy, we didn’t need this.” Feeling sad and disappointed for the two boys, Murphy said his “focus went directly to the team and knowing if we worked hard, we could certainly overcome this obstacle.” Unbeknownst to him, a plan was already underway to extract the players and reunite them with the team.

Steven Melo and Frank Decesare jumped into action. According to Melo, “We did a satellite imaging search on Google Maps to find an overpass or road that may provide access by foot to the 400.” A potential crossroad was identified, and they took off on their rescue mission (obeying all applicable traffic laws, of course). At the same time, a text message was sent to the boys instructing them to start dressing and putting on their equipment.

Having arrived at the Highway 400 overpass at Line 9, Decesare waited in the vehicle while Melo climbed the embankment and started on foot in the direction of Peacock and Baranov. The boys, meanwhile, had been notified and ran (along with one dedicated hockey mom!), fully dressed in their equipment (including helmets), sticks and skates in hand, towards Melo.

In total, the players ran about a kilometre down the shoulder of the highway. Melo reported that other stranded motorists started honking, cheering, and yelling things like “Way to go!”, “Good luck in the game!” and “This is the most Canadian thing I have ever seen!”

From the shoulder of the highway, Melo phoned to inform Decesare: “I have the package!”

Back at the arena Coach Murphy was preparing the team to play without their two teammates. Lady Luck intervened and sent an earlier game into overtime and then to a shootout. This bought the team precious extra minutes. Murphy, who was initially unaware that Melo and Decesare had embarked on their rescue mission, said later, “I was pretty proud and excited that these parents took it upon themselves while the coaches readied the team.”

Peacock and Baranov arrived with minutes to spare. Murphy describes the mood as “absolutely crazy – we saw them dash through the doors, running with sticks and skates in hand, otherwise fully dressed. Then we had to go to work on the ice.”

This is why people refer to their hockey teams as their “hockey family.”

West Hill prevailed 3-2 over the George Bell Titans for the tournament win.