Pilot who skated helicopter through hockey game defends stunt
It was a truly Canadian quest for the perfect hockey game: eight players boarding four helicopters to search the North Shore Mountains for the ideal frozen lake to play on.
But no player’s slapshot is getting anywhere near the attention of a shot pilot Bradley Friesen took while his helicopter skated between two groups of players, which raised eyebrows after being posted on YouTube.
Some viewers worried Friesen had recklessly flown between the players as an impromptu stunt, but Friesen told CTV News that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m standing behind what we did,” Friesen said at the Delta hangar of the helicopter used to get some of the eye-popping footage. “It was the ultimate Canadiana, to be in the mountains playing pond hockey.”
The footage was shot by a camera attached to a helicopter pontoon as the aircraft glides across the ice. The players appear to skate out of the way as the chopper approaches, and then skate under the chopper as it takes off.
Friesen, who has been flying for some 20 years, said the video was carefully staged with safety briefings and a variety of precautions, but the video was picked up by websites that focused on the shock value.
“They titled it as ‘insane pilot slides helicopter through game of hockey,’ and everybody went, what the hell, who would do that? That’s not what happened,” he said.
Reached by CTV News, another pilot, Tarek Husevold of Bellingham Aviation, said his first reaction after seeing the video was that it could put the players in danger. “You could catch a skid and roll onto the hockey players,” he said.
But Husevold called back after having seen the “making of” footage, and conceded that the whole thing was “pretty cool.”
Among the skaters was Sancho Gelb, one of the owners of B.C. Helicopter School. He said that many precautions were taken, including having him and his brother in the positions closest to the aircraft – though he doubts there was any risk.
“There was always room for the helicopter to pass between players on the ice,” said Gelb.
Still, Friesen said he wanted to defuse the controversy, and complained about himself to Transport Canada.
“I need to explain how this was done safely, how this was done responsibly, and I sent it to Transport Canada in advance of any complaints,” he said.
Transport Canada confirmed to CTV News that it is investigating whether any of its rules were broken, including whether Friesen had the correct paperwork and filming permits.
Friesen says if anything comes from the investigation, he will accept it.
In the meantime, he says the video has been shown all over the world as an example of the lengths that Canadians will go to play the perfect game of hockey.