The crowd at Friday’s Kootenay Ice game was treated to a very special intermission event March 15, when Cranbrook resident James Hatala proposed to his girlfriend of four years, Meghan Dunlop, at centre ice.
It was a nerve-wracking experience for James, who said he had barely slept in the days leading up to the proposal.
“I was extremely nervous,” James told the Townsman on Sunday after having the weekend to recover.
He came up with the proposal idea because Meghan and her family are hockey fans.
“Her family is a hockey family and they have been going to the hockey for decades. I just thought if I could incorporate that somehow, it would probably be pretty special for her,” James said.
The proposal took some planning, he went on, and since James works in Sparwood on night shifts, he had to do much of the organizing when he would usually be asleep.
Complicating things even further, James needed to arrange for Meghan to have Saturday off work — which was tricky since she is a receptionist at East Kootenay Community Credit Union.
“So to get through to anybody else, I had to go through her,” James said. “So she would come home for lunch and as soon as she would walk out the door, I’d be on the phone trying to figure out who to talk to.”
Still, Meghan was not suspicious at all when the couple arrived at Western Financial Place on Friday for the Kootenay Ice game against the Calgary Hitmen. Meghan’s parents and sisters, and James’s parents were all at the game — and she thought it was strange to see so many family and friends, but James was able to stop her from thinking too deeply about it, he said.
The ruse to get Meghan to centre ice was that they had been chosen to play in a Shoot To Win competition. James had been working on the plan that the competition would be during the second intermission, but some miscommunication meant that it happened during the first intermission instead.
“The next thing you know we’re being scooted out onto the ice. That was a bit shocking,” James said, adding that he was actually glad it came about sooner.
“I was concerned about what I was going to say sitting there for an hour, trying to keep up the facade.”
Both Meghan and James took turns shooting the puck — and neither came close to a goal.
“I didn’t even hit the net. I’m glad I hit even the boards. I’m never going to hear the end of that one because I do play a little bit of hockey. It was horrible. Some people were like, you were just doing that to make her feel better. I was like, well, you can think that, but it isn’t true,” said James.
He was barely even aware that there were 2,500 people watching, James went on.
“I had so many other things going through my head at that point I didn’t realize there was all those people there. I was concentrated on the important things, not shooting a puck and not anything else,” he said.
After the couple took their turns shooting at the net, MC Rob Amsing told Meghan there was one more task they had to do. Meghan turned around to see James on one knee.
Of course, a very surprised and overjoyed Meghan said yes to James’s proposal, and their family and closest 2,500 friends cheered in congratulations.
Now, the couple is just enjoying being engaged before they set a date and begin planning the wedding — which James says will be a piece of cake after organizing the proposal.
“I think it will be easy compared to this!” James said.