Tag Archives: canada

Cancer, Bullying and … Hockey Hair?

ryan-smythHockey hair. What would our Canadian hockey culture be without it? Seriously – does it get any better than Captain Canada himself, Ryan Smyth? With those flowing locks being such an iconic image of the sport we all love, it’s hard to imagine a kid being bullied for having hockey hair—especially one of our kids in the CRHL. But that’s exactly what happened to our own Bantam player, Caleb.

Hold on there, just a minute. Before you get too upset, wait until you hear the whole story—including what he did in response.

A year ago, Caleb was at a point where his hair was naturally getting longer. Perhaps a trip to the barber might have been in the cards back then at some point, but let it suffice to say that it wasn’t top of mind for this young man. Unfortunately, some kids at Caleb’s school began to bully him. They taunted him about his hair and made comments which we simply can’t bear to repeat because it breaks our hearts.

It would not be difficult to imagine Caleb letting these comments get to him. Nor would it be difficult to imagine him rushing to get his hair cut just to make the bullying stop. But that’s not what Caleb did. Instead, he decided he was going to stand up to the bullying in the most awe-inspiring, most unbelievable way ever…

He was going to grow his hair even longer. But not only that, he was going to donate it for cancer!

In order to make a wig, Caleb’s hair will need to be eight inches in length. He expects to have attained that length by April of this year. When that happens, he plans to have an assembly at school to have it cut in front of everyone. He’ll also be inviting friends and family, cancer survivors, and even the local media.

Now how’s that for a kid showing the world that bullying is not going to bring him down?

There is a personal element to this goal for Caleb, as well. His mother, it turns out, is a breast cancer survivor. Caleb knows first-hand what it’s like for patients going through chemotherapy to have to lose their hair. That, and to help raise money, is what is motivating Caleb now.

While this is the first time he is donating his hair, it is not the first time he has been involved in charity work. He helps out with a charity called Go 4 Broke, which raises money for spinal cord research. The organization was founded by Caleb’s father, one of our very own CRHL board members, when Caleb’s aunt Henriette sadly passed away from a spinal cord injury in 2013. In addition to this, Caleb helps his father with practices for the Atom hockey team his dad coaches with the CRHL, and he also volunteers at the Courtice Food Bank with his church.

calebThis is one of our young players of whom we are immensely proud, and when we found out what he was doing, we simply couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We just had to share it with all of our members. Caleb, we are inspired by your efforts and your selflessness, and we applaud you for everything you’re doing. Keep up the amazing work!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Caleb and his efforts, check out his site at www.tjccfrench.wixsite.com/showyoucare.

Bitten By The Goalie Bug

20161105_144230Boy, do we love hidden sports talent stories! You know the ones, where a kid is put into a position he or she has never tried before, and pulls an amazing game from seemingly nowhere.

Meet Logan V. Last year he was brand new to hockey. As in, while many of his teammates had several years  under their belts and were as steady on their skates as they are in sneakers on dry pavement, Logan was quite literally making his brave debut with blades strapped to his feet in a competitive game.

Knowing how quickly kids pick up the sport, his coach and staff were pleased to help Logan work on his skills. Week after week, the parents of Team 1 watched as this young man worked hard to improve, and they cheered every game when he was able to break up a play, move the puck forward, or back up his teammates.

It’s always a great thing to see a player develop. But there is nothing more astonishing than to discover that a player has a hidden talent.

Logan’s hidden talent … is for goalie.

Here’s how it went. One day, Logan told his coach that he wanted to give the old net a try. So of course, his coach strapped him into the pads and sent him out for a practice to see how he liked it. Turns out he liked it well enough. His coach, together with Logan’s parents, watched anxiously as Logan went out there into net the very next game.

What happened next defies expectation. Shot after shot, Logan made the save. He was down, he was up … he was the Great Wall of Clarington! The parents of Team 1 gasped in amazement. Could this really be their Logan out there?!

The game ended in a win for Team 1, and no one could deny that Logan was player of the game!

Since that time, Logan has decided that he wants to be a full-time goalie, and is improving even further with his new coach on Team 3.

It just goes to show, friends, that even though kids progress at different rates, they each have different talents. And sometimes they have hidden talents, talents we didn’t even think to consider might be there.

We think everyone can agree – it is nothing short of amazing when they pull those talents out and surprise the “puck” out of us!

An On-Ice Slip: Not Always a Bad Thing

No matter how good a skater you are, no matter how many years you’ve been doing it, it’s inevitable – you’re going to fall at one time or another. And believe it or not, referees are not immune to this slightly embarrassing gaffe.

It’s a good thing our Clarington referees have a great sense of humour. Did you know that each time one of them has a wee slip on the ice, they contribute to a fund? A Fall Jar, if you will. They have a good laugh about it amongst themselves afterwards (so long as they’re not seriously hurt, of course), and they get back out there on the ice next game to do what they do best.

Now that’s dedication.

Normally, the Fall Jar fund goes towards an end-of-season celebration amongst our officials. A well-deserved one, may we say, considering the time and effort and, yes, bumps and bruises, that go hand-in-hand with a typical season.

But this year, the referees have decided to forgo their night out, and instead have donated the entire proceeds from their slips and trips.

This year, those proceeds sponsored a child in need.

That’s right! A kid who might otherwise not have been able to play hockey this year, got the chance to step out on the ice. They got the chance to be a part of a team, to make new friends, and to play the game that we all love.

Of course, our referees are modest. You would not have heard this story from them. But we’re not modest, and we’re perfectly happy to share this with our friends, players and parents. Our referees do far more for our kids than what we see on the ice every game. And they do it quietly, without expecting any kind of recognition in return.

So we hope you will all help us recognize our referees, and everything they do for us. Thank a ref next time you see one!

Photo Credit: Chris Waits

Creativity and Shinny: What Minor Hockey Might Be Missing

CaptureIs minor hockey worth it?

This was a question asked by the Toronto Star in a 2013 article which addressed the cost of minor hockey in Canada, and the statistical outlook for kids who hope to make it to the NHL.

Being a recreational hockey organization, our initial response was a resounding YES! For most of us who enjoyed a hockey childhood, we remember cold winter days spent on the pond until it got so dark we couldn’t see the puck anymore. We remember the smell of the ice first thing in the morning for those early games, and that twenty-kid pileup on the goalie after a well-deserved win.

Is minor hockey worth it … seriously?? [Insert snort of derision here]

However, with such a provocative question put forth by the Star, we naturally wanted to find out what their opinion was. So we read the full article …

Ahhh, okay. They’re looking specifically at minor hockey, as opposed to our recreational type of program here at the CRHL. And the writer does make some fair points with regards to expense, demographics, and margins of success — all points which don’t apply to us in quite the same way.

We did, however, find one suggestion particularly intriguing. The Star argues that with such a heavy focus on regimented, intensive training, minor hockey associations throughout Canada are producing players who are less creative than their forbears.

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Photo credit: Robert Taylor

Well that’s quite a glove slap to minor hockey! But one the Star, and many other industry experts, defend with statistics and live examples. More than simply substantiating such an accusation, they go so far as to offer a solution to this alleged tangible problem. And that solution is …

Unstructured, unregimented, unscripted … shinny??

Yes, shinny. Apparently this free skate style of hockey for the sake of the game alone offers something that intense training cannot. According to the Massachusetts Hockey association (Mass), when there is “freedom from clocks and walls and officials and coaches and whistles and lines … unrivaled joy beckons. There is also a by-product from this lack of structure: Player development for young skaters.” Mass points to Roger Grillo, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, whom they quote as arguing that creativity is a major part of developing high-end players.

Triple-A coaches far and wide are beginning to recognize this shift in player development also. The star reports one coach as saying, “Unlike Guy Lafleur or Wayne Gretzky, [players today haven’t] logged thousands of hours playing shinny. Instead they log thousands of hours in minivans; a game that can be a three-hour commitment when factoring in commute times and dressing time, but it only yields 10-17 minutes of ice time for the player.”

Interesting … and not inaccurate, when one stops to think about it. Ken Dryden, in his book The Game, writes that, “It is in free time that the special player develops, not in the competitive expedience of games, in hour-long practices … in mechanical devotion to packaged, processed, coaching-manual, hockey-school skills.”

To further this suggestion, there is an interesting anecdote on the Herb Brooks Foundation website:

A generation ago, Johnson High School in St. Paul was a Minnesota hockey powerhouse … Its success wasn’t due to better coaching, facilities, or innate athletic ability of East Side kids. Instead, it was the countless hours of unstructured practice by the Phalen Park rink rats. Hockey was part of the culture on the St. Paul’s East Side. Kids went to the rink/pond to meet their friends and have fun playing hockey. The game belonged to them.

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Photo credit: jpellgen [modifications: cropped]
As a recreational hockey association, of course the CRHL firmly believes that hockey practice, with regimented drills and a focus on skills, is an essential part of hockey development. But it’s only a part. With Canada being so strong on hockey culture, it’s safe to say that most of us can agree a little shinny wouldn’t go amiss. In between the early morning power skating, the practices, the games and the tournaments, perhaps we do need to remember to carve out some time for our kids to get out there on a pond, or a free rink, and just have at it.

Their game. Their way.

It’s food for thought, anyway.

Featured image credit: Jamie McCaffrey