Breaking the ice for visitors

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

KANDAHAR -- The intercoms of Canadian armoured vehicles crackled so much with hockey talk yesterday that it sounded like an Afghan all-sports station.

Aussies, Danes and Brits walking the dusty streets of Kandahar Airfield were startled to see big men in army helmets and golf shirts popping out of the turrets of Bisons, RG-31 Wagons and LAVs, waving and giving the thumbs up.

Inside, the visiting NHLers were being shown the weapons, guidance systems, radio and navigation technology. They and members of Blue Rodeo and Jonas clambered aboard while eager service personnel showed them the ropes in exchange for autographs, T-shirts and CDs.

The visitors signed a huge Canadian flag that Princess Pats' mechanics Caleb Lalonde, of Regina, and Thor Creighton, of Edmonton, had run up the antenna of their big Bison crane transport.

Kurtis Twilley, of Swan River, Man., and Brent De Merchant, of Fredericton, N.B., both members of the Pats, said they learned a few things about the NHLers, too.

"You always wonder what happens to those guys after they finish playing," De Merchant said. "I met Stu Grimson, who's licensed to practise law in Tennessee."

He said it was great they could talk about "common thoughts on career changes."

Hundreds of the soldiers attended last night's concert inside the Boardwalk. Picture a giant dust bowl ringed by a patio fence, with stagelights throwing up a surreal haze. Jonas and the folk duo of Lori Anna Reid and Gregg Lawless warmed up the crowd for Blue Rodeo, with armoured vehicles from all nations at the back, providing good seats and a place to lay rifles.


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