"Ma te mahi ka ora" was the message Te Mata School students sang to the Canadian women's national hockey team when they visited the school yesterday.

Translated it means "the work will live" and the next line of the song, "rise and shine it's a brand new day", was the message underpinning the enthusiastic welcome the team was treated to.

The school has been allocated to the Canadian team for the duration of this year's Festival of Hockey, and one student will be flag bearer for the Canadians.

After a powhiri and formalities of singing both nations' anthems, the students and team got to know each other with a Q and A session.


One student said New Zealand was famous for rugby and asked what Canada was famous for, and the reply was: Justin Bieber.

Principal Michael Bain had the hall rumbling with laughter when he told a couple of Kiwi jokes and a skin-prickling haka was performed by some boys.

Mr Bain said it was great for the students to have this experience.

The school's head of hockey, Jo Phillips, said she had always played hockey but never had an opportunity like this when she was younger.

With 11 hockey teams in the school Mrs Phillips said: "It's obviously a really big deal. All that enthusiasm will rub off on them [the students]."

Fittingly, the Canadian team's visit coincides with the school's hockey trials tomorrow for the start of the season.

After the assembly young hockey players joined the Canadian team, ranked 19th in the world, for a fun skills session and a chance to get up close and personal.

Team manager Nancy Mollenhauer said one of the great things about being involved with a school during their visit was the opportunity it provided for the players to connect culturally and at a community level.

"New Zealand has such a great hockey culture."

She said most of the team members did not start playing as young as they did in New Zealand, "it's really refreshing".

Co-captain Danielle Hennig said visiting the school was a "unique experience".

She said the team had seen the haka on television before but to see it performed in person was something else.

The team was wished luck for the tournament and Mr Bain said the students would get an opportunity to go and watch some of the matches.