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Sunday, October 6
Queen Elizabeth drops puck before Canucks game

Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- With her royal obligations complete, Queen Elizabeth II decreed her plans for the rest of the night -- return to her room, find the right TV channel and settle in for a couple of periods of NHL hockey.

Queen, Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky hands the puck to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The British monarch attended her first NHL game since 1951 on Sunday night, entering to the clarion strains of royal trumpets, dropping the ceremonial puck of the Canucks-Sharks exhibition game and talking hockey with no less an authority than Wayne Gretzky.

The 76-year-old monarch, flanked by local minor hockey league players banging their sticks on the ice, was led to the center of the rink along a red carpet amid a loud ovation from the crowd of 18,422.

She gingerly dropped the puck between Vancouver's Markus Naslund and San Jose's Mike Ricci. After "God Save the Queen'' was played, she walked to a royal box complete with decorative grass and colorful floral arrangements.

She sat between Gretzky and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell. The queen spent most of the period leaning forward in her seat, occasionally asking questions of Gretzky or Campbell.

"She was curious about why penalties were being called,'' Gretzky said. "She also talked about the goaltenders and how quick they were.''

She watched the first period before leaving.

"It was great for Canada to be able to show off one of the things we love most in our country and that's the game of ice hockey,'' Gretzky said. "They talked about it, if it was on TV and what channel because they wanted to see the last two periods on TV.''

The queen is in Vancouver with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as part of a 12-day tour of Canada, celebrating the monarch's Golden Jubilee.

Gretzky, the NHL's career scoring leader and executive director of Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics, was among those who had joined the queen at center ice.

Also there were Cassie Campbell, captain of the Canadian women's Olympic team; Canucks and Team Canada defenseman Ed Jovanovski; and Hall of Fame television broadcaster Howie Meeker.

Jovanovski was wearing street clothes when he helped escort the queen to center ice. He managed to change into his hockey equipment fast enough to open the scoring 2:39 into the first period of Vancouver's 3-2 win.

"We talked more about what happened at Salt Lake City this year and winning the gold meal at the Olympic Games,'' Gretzky said. "And she was really excited about that and thrilled about meeting Ed. Him getting the first goal, that really perked her up.''

Meeker, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player, played in the one-period exhibition between Toronto and Chicago witnessed by the queen in 1951. At the time, she was a 25-year-old princess. Later that day in Montreal, she watched the Canadiens play the New York Rangers. He approved of the queen's somewhat dainty puck drop.

"I've seen a lot worse in the National Hockey League,'' he said.

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