Hay River high school students are getting a taste of one of the most popular winter sports in Canada thanks to a donation by the Northwest Territories Broomball Association, the Hay River Elks and others.
Hay River Recreation Programmer Tammy Buchanan said the Town of Hay River made a request to NWT Broomball for a grant to buy equipment that would assist in the development of a youth broomball program. NWT Broomball promptly donated $5,000 worth of equipment, including shoes, sticks, balls, gloves and shin pads. The Hay River Elks Club donated $1,000 for the purchase of helmets, and the Hay River Broomball League may pony up some money to purchase face masks.
The program, which began late last month, is currently only offered to senior high students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, though there are plans in place to expand it to the junior high grades once the face masks arrive.
DJSS physical education teacher Kelly Webster said 45 students are taking part in the program so far. While the ice is available on Tuesday and Thursday, Webster said they will use only the Thursday slot for the time being.
Webster said the sport works well for the youth since a specialized isn’t required in order to be successful and have fun.
“If kids come to play hockey and they don’t know how to skate, they’re not going to be successful,” she explained.
Jan Vallillee, the president of NWT Broomball, said broomball also contributes to a healthier lifestyle and increases social skills among youth. Youth trying the sport for the first time all start at the same level, she said.
“It doesn’t matter what their skill set is, what their attitude is, or if they are a natural or not. If you can run, you can play,” she explained. “You don’t need the height (basketball, volleyball), skating skills (hockey, ringette), just the desire to go out and have fun and get some great exercise at the same time.”
The Forrest Ice broomball equipment was donated by Tyler Deans and Troy Berry of Yellowknife, Vallillee added.
Jordan Smith, a grade 12 student at DJSS, has been playing broomball for five years. He said he was happy to see his classmates taking an interest in the sport, noting that a couple of them have expressed interest in joining the local broomball league.
“It feels pretty good showing them what to do, (and) how to play,” Smith said Thursday. “It’s also better – (it’s) more people to come out for broomball.”
Hay River Broomball League players Jessica Latour and Duane Mackie were on hand to give the players instructions and tips.
Buchanan said players can also sign out the equipment for free if they want to try the sport out in the league setting.
“Maybe down the road they could pick it up as a lifelong habit,” she said.
Webster said they plan to run the program once a week until the arena shuts down for the summer. She said they are considering expanding the program to include students from Princess Alexandra School and Ecole Boreale.
“It looks like a sport that any age can play and have success at.”