This year, for the first time, the Pickard family will not be together during the Christmas holidays.
And while it will be an adjustment, the opportunity with Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence for 19-year old Chet and 16-year old Calvin is well worth the sacrifice.
Both will play key roles as goaltenders for their respective teams – Chet for Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa, ON and Calvin for Team West at the 2009 World Under -17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni, BC.
“It’s been a goal for both boys,” says Dan Pickard, the proud father, of the brothers making their respective teams. “Obviously not being together for the holidays will be different, but it’s worth it.”
Despite 4,627 kilometres between them, the brothers won’t be far from each other’s thoughts as they embark on the most important hockey experience of their lives.
With mom Kathy heading to Vancouver Island with Calvin and Dan and sister Kelly off to the nation’s capital to cheer on Chet, telephone calls, texting, television and the internet will play key roles in keeping the family connected.
“We usually call after every game anyways,” says Chet, “so it won’t be that different.”
With both brothers playing key roles for their Western Hockey League teams – Chet plays in Tri-City, while Calvin is in Seattle – selection to their respective teams wasn’t much of a surprise for the other brother.
“The way he has played over the last year gave him a lot of confidence going into the selection camp,” says Calvin of Chet. Likewise, Chet knew that is younger brother had a great chance to play at the U17 tournament, something the elder Pickard never did.
“It has been the tale of two different situations,” says Dan. “Chet has taken a slightly longer road, while Calvin has really jumped at the opportunity presented to him this year.”
After not making Team West for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Chet spent two years backing up 2007 World Junior hero Carey Price in Tri-City before grabbing the number one job last year, leading the Americans to the conference final and claiming the WHL and CHL goaltender of the year awards.
Meanwhile, Calvin has excelled in his rookie year with the Thunderbirds, taking the top job from incumbent Jacob DeSerres. The younger Pickard has benefitted from his older brother's experience, seeing and learning about the necessary mental and physical preparation and understanding the expectations and managing the pressure of the Program of Excellence.
While the brothers have long been there for each other, the support they’re getting from other sources doesn’t hurt.
Friends and family in Winnipeg, Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Canada – they’ve all been very supportive,” says Dan.
Add the backing of thousands of ravenous Canadian hockey fans across the country to this support system and Chet and Calvin Pickard should both be able to draw a lot of confidence during their quest for gold medals this Christmas.