Manitoba school principal pens letter allowing young Oilers fan to stay up late to watch games

“A lot of times when kids get sent to my office to speak with me, it’s for something they did wrong, so doing something like this is important. You need to have those positive interactions with students.”

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No student likes to bring a letter home from the principal and show their parents.

But nine-year-old Levi Ford and his principal Todd Harwood hatched a good plan.

Both big fans of the Edmonton Oilers, Harwood crafted a letter to Ford’s parents asking permission for his fellow Oilers die-hard fan to be able to stay up and watch late playoff games.

The plan worked, and Ford has been able to watch his beloved Oilers since Game 3 of the Western Conference final against Dallas.

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“That’s often our topic of conversation in the halls or at recess,” said Harwood, principal of Deerwood School, in the small city of Thompson, Man., 761 km north of Winnipeg.

“The other day (after Game 1), I asked him if he got to watch the game, knowing full well he wouldn’t have because it went so late (double OT).

“He told me no, but he rattled off all the stats to me, so I asked him what he thought of the idea of sending his parents a letter asking if he can stay up and watch the games.”

Harwood and Ford made the letter look formal to play it up like he was going to be in trouble, and when Levi’s mother saw the letter before her husband saw it, she decided to have some fun with the request too.

“I texted my husband before he got home and said that Levi got into trouble. He asked what for, and I told him he’ll have to wait, and we can talk about it when he gets home,” said Levi’s mother, Kristyne Ford.

“As soon as he read the first two lines, he started to laugh, but he said he was upset the whole way home and he told me, ‘0I’m sure you took his electronics away, but if not, make sure you do, he has to know that he’s in trouble.’”

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With the Oilers having to play both Los Angeles and Vancouver in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, it made for many late nights for Oilers fans, but especially for Levi who’s bedtime is well before the Oilers playoff games were finished.

Puck drop for the Western Conference final games against Dallas have been earlier and, after the request was granted, Levi got to stay up and watch Game 3 on Monday night.

“He was so excited. He would just scream and cheer every time (Connor) McDavid or (Leon) Draisaitl would touch the puck. When they scored, he was just so happy,” said Ford, who said Levi has been an Oilers fan his whole life.

Levi Ford as a baby
Deerwood school principal Todd Harwood wrote a letter to his student Levi Ford’s parents asking permission for Levi to stay up past his bedtime to watch the Edmonton Oilers playoff games. Ford has been an Oilers fan since he was an infant. edm

“It was a lot of fun to see him get so excited. He’ll be watching Game 4 tonight, and I hope they win. That will make him so happy.”

For Harwood, being able to share a bond with one of his students over their favourite sports team is special. That bond is strong as they’re likely the only Oilers fans in their school and the northern Manitoba city that is filled with fans of the Winnipeg Jets.

As principal, more often than not, when students get sent to his office it’s not for anything positive, but doing something fun like this was just a spur of the moment idea, and now that his fellow Oilers fan can stay up and watch the Oilers playoff games, they’ll be able to talk even more about each playoff game as they happen.

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“It’s even more important as my role as principal, for my own sanity and mental health,” said Harwood.

“A lot of times when kids get sent to my office to speak with me, it’s for something they did wrong, so doing something like this is important. You need to have those positive interactions with students.”

letter to parents
Deerwood school principal Todd Harwood wrote a letter to his student Levi Ford’s parents asking permission for Levi to stay up past his bedtime to watch the Edmonton Oilers playoff games. Both Harwood and Ford are die-hard Oilers fans.

Playoff games can sometimes go extra long. Oilers fans surely remember Petr Klima’s overtime goal in the Stanley Cup final against Boston in 1990 that was scored late in the third overtime period. Or Shawn Horcoff’s triple-overtime goal against San Jose in 2006, or Fernando Pisani’s short-handed breakaway goal in the 2006 Stanley Cup final against Carolina that same year.

Kristyne Ford has a plan if any of the Oilers future playoff games go super late.

“We have a plan, and Mr. Harwood doesn’t know that, but if there is a game that goes super late in overtime, we’re going to send him a letter with Levi saying ‘Excuse my grouchiness, but I was up watching the Oilers game, thanks to you,” she said.

Ford said seeing the bond over the Oilers and hockey that her son has with his principal is important for her, as not all kids are able to connect with their fellow teachers at school. Ford’s husband knew Harwood prior to their son registering at the elementary school, and it’s been helpful for Levi to have someone at his school he can trust to talk to.

“Knowing that we had someone there that we actually knew that would keep an extra eye on him is nice. We’ve always told Levi that if there are any problems, or he needs to talk about something, he can go see him, and he’s done that a few times,” said Kristyne Ford.

“I’m glad he has someone there. I don’t think when I was a kid I had a principal like that. We’re pretty grateful for him.”

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