An oldtimers hockey team hit the ice as darkness fell Wednesday, but they weren't chasing a puck.
The Old Dogs jumped into action and probably saved the lives of a woman and two dogs after they plunged into the water from a ledge of ice along the Thompson River.
Team members were having a few beers at the Anavets clubhouse (formerly the Beachhouse Restaurant), with a clear view of the riverfront a stone's throw away, when duty called.
"We were just trying to help the young lady out of the river when she went in," said Bert Kant, drying out after his January dip. "I missed the Polar Bear Swim," he quipped.
"We can laugh because everything is OK."
Kathryn Easton, a member of the Anavets, was walking her brother's dog along the shore when the animal fell into the river. With another, smaller dog on her shoulders, she tried to rescue the canine on her own.
"We watched her go down," said Yvonne Johnson, another club member. "These guys phoned 911 but there was no sense in us going down. There was nothing we could do, anyway."
Anyone walking on river ice is courting danger, club members cautioned.
"And that water's cold and it's running," Johnson added. "It could have been a catastrophe."
Not with a willing and able hockey team already on the ice. Knowing the risks of compounding the crisis - the ice is unstable, especially at its outer edges - they seized an Anavets flag and used the pole to extend their reach.
"You can see where it opened up," said Paul Bourassa, another team member. "We thought she was trying to get the dog. In fact, she was in trouble. She's lucky, that woman."
Though air temperatures have warmed slightly, the water remains extremely cold. Someone immersed in the river wouldn't have long before they lost strength.
"It's not a shock when you need to do something," said Bob Reid, one of the rescuers who got wet.
"She would have drowned, no question," added teammate Tom Blair.
By the time police arrived, all were safely ashore.
Paramedics checked Easton's vitals after the incident and she was reported to be OK. Wrapped in a blanket in the back of a police car, she wanted to say thanks to her rescuers.
"I'm very impressed with the response that came from the team and the Anavets," she said.
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