One of the Flin Flon Bombers’ youngest and furthest-away fans has received a memorable birthday gift through social media - a new jersey from his favourite team, thousands of kilometres from home.
For Max Hurney, being a Bomber fan didn’t come naturally. After all, he didn’t grow up in Flin Flon - far from it. Max and his family live in southern California. They’ve never been to Flin Flon and have no family connections to the town.
The connection started with a love for hockey. The Hurneys are big fans of the sport - Max first hit the ice at age three.
“He plays hockey and he loves - as I'm sure all the hockey kids do - he's obsessed with watching hockey videos constantly on YouTube, different hockey videos. He watches the games all the time,” said Brigitte Hurney, Max’s mom.
“We’re L.A. Kings fans, we have season tickets and we watch the games.”
It was through the internet that the Hurneys first found out about the team, through Flin Flon: A Hockey Town. A documentary shot in and around Flin Flon in 2017 featuring extensive commentary with players, fans, coaches and community figures, the film received an online release earlier this year.
“My husband is always trying to find some type of hockey documentary or something that's kid friendly that he can watch. He found the Flin Flon documentary and watched it and thought, ‘This would be great, Max would love it.’”
When Max first saw the film, he was hooked. Brigitte said he began searching for anything Bomber-related he could find, Googling the team’s history and stats, asking about the team, examining their uniforms and watching and rewatching the film.
“When he’s been a good boy and he does his homework and chores, before going to bed, we let him watch anything of his choosing. For about a week and a half, he asked to watch the documentary every night before going to bed. It got to the point where he knew the songs in the movie and he knew some of the kids’ names. He became pretty obsessed with the team,” Brigitte said.
When Max’s eighth birthday came around in October, Brigitte hit on the perfect gift idea - anything related to the Bombers. The trouble is, Bomber gear is hard to find in California. While the Bombers are setting up an online team store, it is not accessible to the public.
To help out the search, Brigitte reached out to a Facebook group she joined for hockey moms, asking if anyone in the group could help her track down Bomber merchandise.
“I posted there and said,’This might be a long shot, my son is obsessed with this team, is there anybody who knows how I can track down a hat or a jersey - something?’”
One of the group’s thousand-plus members was able to help, saying they had family in Flin Flon and had a jersey sitting in their closet.
“She said, ‘send me your address,” Brigitte said.
“I didn’t really put much weight into it, but sure enough, within a week, my son got a package in the mail from that mom and it was a Flin Flon jersey. When I gave it to my son, he couldn’t believe it - ‘What? Where did you get this from? How did you know?’”
The Hurney’s hockey-crazed boy was ecstatic with his gift. Now, the family is wondering where they should go next - not ruling out the idea of making a road trip north to see Max’s favourite team play. The Hurneys have visited Canada before, but nowhere near Flin Flon.
“He’s asked, ‘Is there any way we can watch a game?’” said Brigitte.
“He’s very, very much into going back and seeing more of what Canada has to offer.”
Since the jersey arrived, Hurney posted a photo of her smiling boy with his new sweater to the same hockey mom Facebook group she originally posted to. Other Flin Flonners and Bomber fans who have seen the post have also reached out, including some with close ties to the Bombers.
“We received a message from the team and it said they heard the story and were reaching out. They were glad we enjoyed the documentary and that they’re really proud of the film,” said Brigitte, adding the team would send Max more team gear.
Despite being from the southern U.S., Brigitte said the experience and the film made her feel a kinship with other hockey moms from Canada, seeing common experiences and feelings between her son and some of the players in the film.
“It’s so nice to be able to participate and have a lot of things in common with moms in Canada,” she said.
“I thought it was such an awesome story. I told them, as a hockey mom, it touched me as well in many different ways.”