With Star Wars: The Last Jedi recently hitting theaters, Jedi mania is once again sweeping the country. So it’s no surprise that the Colorado Avalanche NHL team held a “Star Wars Night” at their game on Saturday.
The themed event was full of Star Wars references and characters. No one was more excited than the Doyle kids: 11-year-old Grant, 9-year-old Grace, and 8-year-old Gabby. Not only were they fans of the hockey team, but big fans of the Star Wars movies as well, so the event was a win-win for them.
Things got even better when they were selected for a special “Guess the Star Wars Character” trivia game.
A series of people in costumes came out, and the kids had to name the character. Having seen all the films, the kids were confident and it seemed pretty easy.
Little did they know, there was a twist to this game straight out of The Empire Strikes Back.
First, they knew this was a stormtrooper:
And of course, this was Princess Leia:
But then came a character that they didn’t quite recognize from the movies:
The kids were thrown off—the hooded, lightsaber-wielding person didn’t seem to be any clear character. Could it be Obi-Wan? Emperor Palpatine? A very tall Jawa?
“Luke Skywalker?” a confused Grant guesses.
They were wrong—but when they found out the real answer, it was even better than winning.
Because it turns out, this wasn’t a Star Wars character at all—but it was a hero who was strong with the Force.
It was their dad, returning home from the Navy!
Navy chief Bill Doyle just returned from the sixth deployment: a year-long tour in Africa. He was set to return home in time for Christmas.
And since he is a huge Colorado Avalanche fan, his wife Jill thought the event would be a perfect opportunity to surprise their children.
“I couldn’t think of a better way for the kids to never, ever forget it,” Jill told the Denver Post. “I typed a simple email to the Avalanche, and they responded really quick.”
The NHL team happily agreed to help make it happen, and set up the fake trivia contest as a ruse.
And even though Bill missed the perfect opportunity to use the “I am your father” line, the surprise was a big success, and his kids excitedly ran over to greet him.
Bill, 44, has been in the service for 15 years, and says the Navy has been his calling.
“I was old for someone joining at that point at 27, and I had gotten my degree from college but hadn’t really used it much,” he told the Denver Post.
“I was at a crossroads wondering what I wanted to do, and then 9/11 happened, and that lit it for me.”
The whole crowd witnessed the incredible surprise homecoming, and gave the officer a roaring round of applause.
Even the players had never seen anything like it. The game’s commentators reported that both benches were watching the “trivia” round on the board, curious why it was going on so much longer than usual.
When they realized what was happening, both teams stood up and applauded.
It was an unforgettable moment, and now the family gets to enjoy the holidays all together again—maybe even take in the new Star Wars movie. May the Force be with them.