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Salmon toss at Leafs-Canucks game honours late son killed in ATV accident

VANCOUVER - Roger Paquette honoured his son the best way he knew how.

The Nanaimo, B.C., fish shop owner paid tribute to his late 30-year-old son Garrett by fulfilling his wish of trying to spawn a new tradition at Vancouver Canucks' games—throwing salmon on the ice.

So Paquette and a couple of Garrett's childhood friends, Blake Simpson and Joey Smith, voyaged from their homes on Vancouver Island to the mainland for last Saturday's game at Rogers Arena between the Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Before he died in an ATV accident last November in Lantzville, B.C., Garrett had hoped to toss a salmon on the ice at the game and launch a trend similar to the octopus toss at Detroit Red Wings home games. He had urged his father to come with him and not "jam out."

"After he passed, I figured a promise is a promise," Paquette said in an interview Thursday. "You keep a promise to your son."

A total of 10 family members and friends at the game, including Garrett's widow Angela, knew of the plan.

Before the game, Paquette, Simpson and Smith each hid a vacuum-sealed Sockeye salmon beneath their clothes and then snuck the fish into Rogers Arena. The fish received a perfume bath ahead of time to baffle questioning noses.

Two of the fish were left in a washroom while another was hidden in a hoodie and placed underneath a seat as the trio watched the game from near ice level.

"We were going to put the three fish on the ice," said Paquette. "But after some discussion, we decided we'd only put one fish on the ice. We just put (the other two) in the washroom. We didn't want to carry them anymore, so it was time to depart from the fish. They're not that easy to pack around."

It was decided that Simpson would do the deed because Smith injured his shoulder in the ATV crash and Paquette wanted to let one of Garrett's friends do the honours.

Late in the game during a stoppage in play with players at the other end of the ice to ensure nobody would be injured, Simpson threw the fish onto the ice, igniting a loud cheer from the crowd and comments from puzzled broadcasters who misidentified the species and wondered whether the dead fish embodied a statement about the Leafs.

"It just felt like a completion thing for what we were there for," said Paquette. "It felt good just to do what we said we were going to do. My little motto is 'Say what you do and do what you say.' It was a nice, warm feeling."

After throwing the fish, Simpson managed to blend into the crowd and did not get tossed out of the arena. Paquette said the throw was a bonding event for him and his family.

"It's a little bit of closure for me," he said. "I've got a lot of things going forward in my life with my son. I'd like to keep fond memories of him, and this is just one more memory of him being with us—without being here. But he was part of it, and our whole family just embraces that bond."

The plan was hatched after Paquette went to Calgary last March to do some seafood promotion and threw a salmon onto the ice during a Flames-Canucks contest.

"We thought we'd help the Canucks along with a new thing with this salmon," said Paquette. "Some of the other cities like Detroit (with an octopus toss) and San Jose and Nashville (catfish) have them. So we figured Vancouver should have something like a salmon (toss) to show for the West Coast of B.C."

Garrett decided on Saturday's game because, like his dad, he was a huge Leafs fan. Father and son had hoped to go to a playoff game in Toronto the next time the Leafs qualify for the post-season.

In response to a request for comment, the Canucks provided the following statement: "As an organization we encourage passionate and responsible fan behaviour. We ask all fans to refrain from throwing any object on to the playing surface for the safety of players, officials, guests and staff."

Paquette said the stunt was a "fun night out" and not designed to hurt anyone.

When all was said and done, though, there was one drawback for Paquette as the Canucks, his second-favourite team, dumped Toronto 6-2.

"It was a hard game to watch if you're a Leaf fan," said Paquette.


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