Prince William plays hockey in Canada

6th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince William wielded a hockey stick on Tuesday and tried his hand at Canada's national pastime during a visit to the far north and the disputed birthplace of ice hockey.

Dressed in a blue suit and tie, he took three shots on a goaltender and was cheered anyway by adoring crowds in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories even though he failed to score.

His new wife Catherine, in a cream linen three-quarter length dress by Malene Birger, also got in on the action, dropping a ball for a faceoff to start a game of street hockey.

Street hockey or "shiny" is similar to field hockey, and is a popular summer substitute in Canada for ice hockey.

One of the earliest recorded references to the game occurred in the Northwest Territories. Sir John Franklin noted in his diary that the game was played on Grey Goose Lake in October 1825 -- 20 years before any other mention of hockey.

A handful of cities and towns in eastern Canada, however, also lay claim to the title "cradle of hockey."

Earlier Tuesday, the indigenous Dene people greeted Britain's royal couple with dancing and singing to the beat of caribou skin drums honoring both aboriginal and Christian prayers.

"It's great to be north of 60. This place is what Canada is all about," Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, told an enthusiastic crowd.

"Catherine and I are deeply honored," he said. "We have been here 12 hours and we've already sensed the extraordinary potential of this region."

Area aboriginals signed Canada's first Arctic treaty 112 years ago at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush with William's great-great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. A century later, she is still affectionately referred to as "grandmother" by locals.

Their enthusiasm for William and Catherine was unbridled, going absolutely wild when the prince ended his speech saying "Mahsi Cho" and "Quyanainni," Dene and Inuvialuktun words for "thank you."

Dene is spoken throughout the territory, including in the capital of Yellowknife, while Inuvialuktun is spoken by the Inuvialuit along the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

During this leg of their first official foreign trip since their wedding-of-the-year two months ago, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are both 29, also observed a mock youth parliament to learn about the territory's unique form of government combining aboriginal traditions with Westminster's parliamentary system.

There are no political parties in the Northwest Territories assembly. Rather, its 19 members meet after elections to choose a speaker, a premier and six cabinet ministers from among themselves, and govern by consensus.

The royal couple also visited a school that teaches aboriginal culture, touring its organic garden, a tipi with plant medicines and fish drying, and an area used for preparing animal hides.

Arriving in a bush plane, they departed in a canoe.

They were also taught aboriginal hand games, historically played to gamble for bullets, furs, dogs, toboggans or match sticks. These involve using elaborate hand gestures, and the hiding and guessing of objects.

And they shared tea and bannock, a kind of bread, around a fire pit with Canadian Rangers, who patrol the far reaches of Canada's Arctic, after discussing with them the challenges they face in the wilds of the north. Junior Rangers also performed a drum dance and throat singing.

On Wednesday, trip organizers said William and Kate will nix plans for a romantic Rocky Mountains getaway to make an unscheduled stop at a community on the shores of Slave Lake devastated by forest fires in May.

Thereafter, the royal golden couple will travel to Calgary for a rodeo and head for Los Angeles on July 9 for the much shorter US leg of their North American tour.

© 2011 AFP

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