It is not every day that a Canadian Junior hockey team is able to experience the excitement of a day in the life of a Navy Clearance Diver. In fact, one could wager that if you were to ask the average player in the BCHL what they know about Navy diving, most wouldn’t be able to tell you what a Clearance Diver was in the first place. But you won’t find that this week if you were to visit The Q Centre in Colwood BC, home of the Victoria Grizzlies Junior A Hockey Club. No, if you walked in there this week and asked your average Grizzlies player, they would be able to tell you quite a bit of interesting detail about the elite cadre of Royal Canadian Navy Clearance Divers who work literally only a kilometre from where the team plays and practices nearly every day of the hockey season.
The reason for this is because the Victoria Grizzlies were the recent guests of the Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) this past Tuesday for a day of professional exchange and some good old fashioned team building. The concept of team building was probably likely not on the minds of the players that morning as they were “ordered at high volume” into the FDU(P) Student Change Room and treated like raw Clearance Diver recruits in the middle of a highly intensive dress parade. Dress parade, for those not in the know, is the high speed training drill designed to teach the young divers both teamwork along with the technical procedure for getting dressed at pace in order to be ready to enter the water at the order of their instructor. Its like Boot Camp for "Diver Want To Be's".
“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU GUYS?! ITS ONE MINUTE THIRTY, YOU MAGGOTS SHOULD BE ALL DRESSED BY NOW! MOVE!”, yelled the Drill Sergeant like FDU(P) instructors as the 22 players, complete with dive bags, wet suits and fins, rapidly attempted to dress in time to meet the day’s first timing, the dreaded “Morning Swim”. This would be a swim around the 1.5 km Esquimalt Harbour FDU(P) Jackstay. More than once you could hear the players laughing quietly under their breath as they attempted to don wet suits, boots and fins at high speed with comments like: “Holly crap, these guys are crazy!”
But in just over five minutes, the entire Victoria Grizzlies Hockey Club were assembled at the end of Golf Jetty, right alongside their twelve Clearance Diver Student mentors, each indicating thumbs up and ready to hit the water. And hit the water they soon did with only the occasional “OMG its frigin cold!” Soon they were all swimming the course and likely wondering secretly to themselves what they had each gotten themselves into on a day which on paper said on the team’s training sheet back at the rink: Professional Development.
Throughout the next half hour, comments during the swim from the players ranged from: “Are my ankles supposed to hurt this much?” or “What do I do if I lost a fin?”, to “There can’t be any salt water left in this ocean, I think I drank it all!”. But those all too common lines were also met with many: “Come on PJ, you can do it man, let's go!”, or “Let’s go Sads, you’ve got this bud!”
After a tough morning swim, the team joined the CD Course on the Rope Tower Confidence Course as they attempted to pull themselves out of the ocean and over the various challenging obstacles. There was plenty of fun factor during this part of the day’s activities as various players dove into the water yelling the famous battle cry of the CD Course student: “I WANT TO BE A CLEARANCE DIVER!”, all to the rousing applause of his fellow teammates and newly bonded Clearance Diver Student buddies.
After the swim and rope climbing exercise, the team showered off and carried on with a full unit tour which included a visit to EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) to don the various Tech 9 EOD Bomb Suits, handle various (free of ammo) small arms weapons and play with the Telerob EOD robot. A final visit to FDU(P)'s Recompression Chamber and RCC facilities garnered many questions about decompression sickness (The Bends) and the use of Hyperbaric Treatments in the support of athletic injuries, to name but a few.
The afternoon portion of the event was an opportunity for the Grizzlies to get back a bit at the divers with a fun filled shinny hockey game played at the Q Centre. And the hosts this time did not disappoint as they did what they always do best while in their own environment. They played hockey at the highest level and showed their lesser hockey playing new diver buddies a thing or two about playing puck. After the two groups, divers and Grizzlies were evenly split up into two roughly even teams, the FDU(P) divers were in for a treat. Highly precise, tape to tape, high speed passes and stick dangles along with World Junior level speed were the order of the day as many helpless divers, all fairly good hockey players in their own right attempted to keep pace with the honed skills of the Grizzlies.
Interestingly, the conversation on the benches continued to involve the theme of the day which was professional development, excellence and team building. Questions revolved around diving, deployed operations in Afghanistan and hockey all afternoon. After the game, both respective groups shook hands at Centre Ice for a short “Photo Op” with the Grizzlies players each receiving an FDU(P) Gold Coin from their diver counterparts in a handshake ceremony to commemorate the occasion as a symbol of thanks and gratitude for the day.
This marked only the second time in recent years that FDU(P) has been able to offer this community outreach piece to the Grizzlies, but all indications by both organizations are that this will become an annual event. So if you see any of the Grizzlies around town later this week, don’t bother asking any of them if they have tired or sore bodies. They will likely point out the equally sore Clearance Divers who work just a short walk past the DND gates down the road from The Q Centre. -CC
Check out what it was like for the boys at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS8UVsHTFvw&list=UUT2PN1sXOb91xy_nlUF69Fg