When playing road hockey, it's important to keep an eye out for automobiles. After all, you're playing on their turf, and they're much, much bigger than you. So when one happens your way, you shout "Car!" and you get out of the way.
Pond hockey players face no such hazards. Your chances of being hit by a car while skating on a frozen river are slim. But, as this video shows, you do have to keep an eye out for sliding helicopters:
Yes, you did just see a full-sized helicopter nearly score a goal in a game of pond hockey.
There's more to the story, though. This wasn't some act of recklessness that narrowly missed killing a group of northern Canadian puck heads, either by running them over or cracking the ice on which they skated.
As Bradley Friesen, the helicopter pilot who shot the video and was driving the copter, notes in an e-mail written to Transport Canada, this was a carefully orchestrated shot for what's sure to be one of the greatest hockey games ever put on film.
"I truly believe it was done in a safe, and responsible manner," he says, "without danger to the aircraft or crew-members on the ground."
Transport Canada has yet to contact Friesen, so he's effectively calling law enforcement on himself, but it's probably smart. After uploading the clip above, it was picked up by video sites with headlines like "Helicopter nearly kills hockey players!"
That's the sort of thing that gets a guy's pilot license revoked. So Friesen decided the best thing to do was get out in front of it as best he could. The next day, he released a behind-the-scenes video of the shot with additional context, and fired off the email:
Here's the video, which is just about as amazing as the first.
And here's the full e-mail, where Friesen explains all the prep work and safety checks done in advance of that big shot:
I'm sure this is unusual for a pilot to essentially call enforcement on himself, but I put a video online yesterday that I feel might need some explanation. I truly believe it was done in a safe, and responsible manner, without danger to the aircraft or crew-members on the "ground". Since the video is already generating a lot of World Wide views, I figured it would be best to show you and explain how the video was done.
So, Saturday morning, I took off at 6:30am, and flew up to inspect lakes for the perfect hockey game. I found the exact lake I was looking for, landed on a small raised beach and chopped through the ice with a hatchet and measured. Like I suspected, the ice was more than 10" thick. By the farmers almanac ice safety chart, that's thick enough to safely support the weight of a 3.5 ton medium sized truck. More than enough to support the weight of skaters and a light helicopter.
I flew back to YPK, and met 4 buddies who are former WHL hockey players. I flew them 2 at a time back to the lake, and filmed them skating and playing hockey.
During the day, I tested several landings on the ice with the helicopter maintaining a forward speed of 15kts, and sliding with 100-150lbs of the helicopter's weight on the ice. Just enough to get the skids of the helicopter flat on the surface, but light enough to rise easily and smoothly back into the air. I found it extremely easy to gauge the ice height, and determined it was safe for me to slide across the ice with the helicopter pointed forward, in the direction of travel. I had a plan for a shot I wanted to capture the following day with more co-ordination.
When we returned to YPK, we showed pictures and video to other Helicopter pilots who all wanted to be involved in a second day of filming, so, I organized 8 former WHL players and 4 helicopters.
Sunday morning, we all met at YPK for an initial safety briefing, and flew +3 back to the lake with and aStar, H300 and 2 R-44's. It was -12 overnight, and added more thickness to the sheet. I walked the entire surface with a chainsaw and tape measure, and inspected the whole ice sheet. It was thick all the way across and had no ridges or holes. There was a small section of open water caused by a waterfall at the far end of the lake. We determined a safety line that no skaters were permitted to cross based on our test holes.
The 2 pilots from BC Helicopters brought their hockey equipment and hand held aviation radios to act as coordinators on the ice between the skaters and helicopter.
After a long safety briefing and walk through of the shots we had planned, we began filming. One of our first shots of the day was the video I would like to share with you. It involved the 8 skaters, 6 former WHL players and 2 BC Helicopter pilots standing in a row across the ice with a small hole between them. The 2 BC Helicopter pilots were located on the left side, and the 6 WHL players on the right. I started from a hover, 200 meters down the ice, and slowly descended onto the ice surface at a speed of 15 kts. and slid across the ice towards the group, aiming my nose at the hole they left form me between the BC Helicopter pilots and the WHL players.
As I approached, the pilots from BC Helicopters called an audible signal for all the parties to move, opening a much larger hole which I continued to slide the helicopter through. We purposely placed the 2 helicopter pilots on my left side, to keep any of the WHL players as far from the tail-rotor as possible. Once I was completely past the group, I waited 2 seconds before initiating a left peddle turn while lifting into the air, to capture the entire group skating towards me.
Again. I believe this was done in a completely safe and responsible manor. All risks and possible safety hazards were discussed with the crew. Every person acknowledged the possible risks and decided to be involved with their own free will. We took precautions to place people in the appropriate positions for maximum tail-rotor safety. We had 3 helicopters on standby should any incident occur and first aid trained individuals as part of the extended group.
Here's hoping Transport Canada shares Friesen's belief that everything was on the level, and we eagerly await the finished video.
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