There were many hockey players, coaches, parents, family, friends, and hockey volunteers with smiling faces at the annual end-of-year hockey banquet at the Royal Canadian Legion on April 14. Players were recognized for their dedication, hard work, success, and perseverance on and off the hockey rink.
Patrick Smith, the Hay River Huskies Bantam player who won the Keith Broadhead Award for the most dedicated player in his age category said, “it is a honour and it’s my first time winning and it is a nice way to end the season”.
The hockey season was considered a success by Kelly Schofield, the President of the Hay River Minor Hockey Association, due to the excellent volunteers and the dedication they have to the sport of hockey.
Most of the Hay River hockey teams ventured outside the town and travelled to different tournaments in the Northwest Territories and Alberta.
John Hill, a Bantam Coach with the Hay River Huskies, believed it was good experience for the kids to meet different teams and experience varying levels of competition.
The team travelled to four tournaments, one in in the NWT and as far south as Edmonton. “It was good following the Hockey Canada guidelines and coaching manuals to help educate the boys on and off the ice,” said Hill.
These coaches are volunteers and give up their time such as family time, and fit time in between their work schedules to put on hockey practices, go to out-of-town hockey tournaments and attend hockey games, so it’s a big commitment, but one they are willing to make.
One of the hockey events in Hay River that was a lot of fun for the players, spectators and organisers was the Polar Pond. “The Polar Pond for minor hockey was great since it was our first year doing it and it was a great success because it was something new and different” said Schofield.
Even though the community of Hay River has a population of about 4,000 people, the sport of hockey continues to grow as more kids move through the divisions coupled with new kids enrolling in hockey.
“I have been better at goalie and I have scored a few more goals than last year,” said Ian Fraser, an Atom Hay River Huskies player.
This is attributed to the fact that hockey is considered a major sport in Hay River and that young hockey players see their favourite NHL hockey players and teams on the ice on a nightly basis.
They may be looking to follow in the footsteps of other famous athletes born in Hay River such as former NHL hockey player Geoff Sanderson and Rob McVicar.
Geoff Sanderson, a former NHL player, was born in Hay River and drafted by the Hartford Whalers in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft in the second round with the 36th pick made it to the NHL playing their professionally for 21 years and spending two seasons in Europe.
Also, Rob McVicar, a NHL hockey player, born in Hay River has been able to get one game of NHL action in with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2005-06 season and now plays overseas in Europe.
This is an encouraging sign for young hockey players in Hay River since it shows that with hard work, commitment and dedication that they can achieve their hockey aspirations.
“It is great that kids have dreams and minor hockey is there to help nurture those dreams” said Schofield.
“Hockey will always be a strong sport in Hay River – after all it is Canada’s game”.