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Justin Bieber hits the ice with the Winterhawks

Canadian pop superstar surprises Whistler hockey team for scrimmage


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There was one very telling sign that the new recruit at Winterhawks practice last week may have been more than just another hockey player.

"Coach came into the room and he said we have a new player, and this guy walked in with all his equipment on. I thought to myself 'well, this is probably one of the younger guys coming in to just practice with us or something,'" recalled Winterhawks goalie Drew Palm.

"He walked around and started shaking everyone's hand, and then I noticed he had neck tattoos, and I was like, what guy this age has neck tattoos?"

The tattoos would certainly have been out of place on a 15-to-17-year old midget minor hockey player, but not on 23-year-old Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber.

There had been reports of Bieber sightings in Whistler in the days before the Nov. 23 practice, but it's safe to say no one on the Winterhawks was expecting him to show up at the Meadow Park Sports Centre that day to lace up the skates.

"It's a pretty cool surprise to have someone that big come skate with you," Palm said.

Bieber joined the team on the ice for two periods, scoring two goals and sticking around to pose for some group photos afterwards.

"He was very humble, he was very polite, and just excited to be there. We gave him a jersey, and he instantly put it on. He just wanted to go play," said Whistler Minor Hockey Association president Steve Legge.

"And it was like, yeah — that's what it's all about in Whistler. Who cares who you are? Put on your skis, put on your snowboard, put on your skates, whatever you got, and let's go."

Legge said he got the call from someone in Bieber's entourage at 11 p.m. the night before, and after a call to midget A1 coach Mike Kleso shortly after, the stage was set — but nobody else could know.

"Only I knew — my family didn't know. Mike, the coach, only knew at 11:30, because I had to warn him... I kept the best secret in Whistler, I think," Legge said with a laugh.

After some back and forth with Bieber's team in the hours leading up to the practice, and a quick once-over of the arena by his security team, Bieber himself arrived at the back door of the Meadow Park Sports Centre.

Legge met him outside before showing him to his own dressing room. Then came the big surprise.

"It was awesome. It was a great experience for these kids," Legge said.

"Sincere, genuine and humble would be the best three words I can use to describe that man. He was pretty shy, too... I was very impressed."

And he's not too bad with the puck, either.

"He was pretty good. I mean, he probably doesn't get to play that much, but he had some good hands, and he scored on me, so that definitely says something," Palm said.

"It was just a lot of fun having him out."