How does one go from playing on a backyard rink to scoring Olympic gold medal-winning goals?
According to three-time Olympic gold medalist Jayna Hefford, much of her success stems from the dedicated hockey volunteers who helped her along the way.
“One of my coaches growing up in Kingston was a woman named Beth Duff, and she donated hundreds of hours of her time to coaching us,” said Hefford. “She also taught us about character and commitment. One year my team travelled around to play 80 games – the same as an NHL season. She organized all of this which was a big part of my success.”
Hefford will be nominating Duff in this year’s RBC Insurance Local Hockey Leaders program, which has recognized behind-the-scenes hockey volunteers for more than eight years. Nominations can be made at rbclocalhockeyleaders.com until April 9.
“I am also going to nominate my parents,” added Hefford. “I spent a lot of time on the backyard rink that my Dad built for us, and really both of my parents contributed so much to the fundraising and volunteering in just about any way that they were needed.”
Hefford’s mother Sandra was in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics to watch her daughter capture her third Olympic gold medal. Her father, Larry, passed away in 2007.
Hefford is now encouraging her fellow Canadians to recognize their own local hockey volunteers and reward them with $10,000 for hockey in their community and a place of honour in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“I think we learned in Vancouver that hockey really is a thread that unites the country, and this simply wouldn’t happen without the hard work of local volunteers,” said Hefford.
Fourteen RBC Local Hockey Leaders winners will be selected this spring (one from each regional Hockey Canada branch and one employee winner).