Kevin Henderson describes the role of team host as someone who solves the
problems of others.
Pretty straightforward, but definitely not easy.
Henderson is back at it again this week for the 2019 World Junior A
Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C., a community that has become a go-to for
Hockey Canada events, from the 2009 National Women’s Team -pre-Olympic boot
camp to the National Women’s Under-18 Championship and World Under-17
Henderson has been front and centre at all of the events as a volunteer,
primarily as a team host. He is placed with one of the competing teams and
is the first person contacted when a problem arises – like when a player
forgets to pack some of his gear.
“One kid forgot his skates this year so I was asked, ‘Can we figure
something out?’ ” says Henderson, who by day is the general manager of
development services at the City of Dawson Creek. “I play hockey with a guy
who owns a sports store. He gave us a brand-new pair of skates for this kid
to wear in practices and an exhibition game while his skates were being
“That’s the beauty of a small town. It speaks to the community and
willingness to help.”
That sense of coming together and doing whatever is necessary has put
Dawson Creek on the map. Hockey Canada regularly identifies communities
that have the ability to host national events. Sometimes it works, other
times it doesn’t work as well. With Dawson Creek it has become a success,
each and every time.
Henderson points to the history of his community working with Canada’s
national hockey body. In 2009, Canada’s National Women’s Team needed a
small community, away from the media glare, for its summer boot camp, a
month-long event that sees players and staff move into a community for on-
and off-ice training and team building.
Dawson Creek welcomed the team with open arms, with residents opening up
their homes for players and staff to live in. The Henderson family – Kevin,
his wife Tyra and their children, Hudson and Rachel – moved out of their
home and in with Tyra’s parents, who were on an acreage about 15 minutes
outside of town.
The Henderson house turned into the home for Team Canada athletes Meaghan
Mikkelson, Brianne Jenner, Charline Labonté and Delaney Collins, two of
whom – Mikkelson and Labonté – would be on the ice in Vancouver months
later celebrating Olympic gold.
“It was great to see how that process started in Dawson Creek and went
right through to the Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver,” says Henderson.
“Knowing you had a little part to play in that process was pretty cool. I
know some of the women’s players still talk about that experience in Dawson
Creek. It was great that we had the ability to do that.”
The boot camp acted as a sort of springboard for events in Dawson Creek.
In November 2012, the city welcomed the National Women’s Under-18
Championship. Henderson was team host for Ontario Blue, with Rachel acting
as a junior host and getting the chance to hang around the players and soak
it all in, including an opportunity to skate with the team in warm-up.
Ontario Blue ended up making history, upsetting Ontario Red – the
seven-time defending champion – in the semifinal en route to a gold medal.
Fast forward three years and Dawson Creek is hosting the World Under-17
Hockey Challenge. Henderson is host for Canada White, Hudson is junior host
and, once again, the team Henderson is hosting makes it to the gold medal
game. Hudson’s role at that event was really to shadow the team trainers.
He filled water bottles, grabbed sticks for players and was the classic
rink rat that got to experience so much.
Henderson says that experience was unlike any other for his small
“Our facility (the Encana Events Centre) had never seen anything like
that,” says Henderson. “There were about 4,000 people in there for the
final, it was jammed to the rafters. Canada versus Russia … it doesn’t get
any better than that. These are the kinds of things that are great for
small communities like Dawson Creek.”
The under-17 event returned to Dawson Creek in 2017, with Henderson acting
once again host for Canada White, which this time finished with bronze.
Henderson’s involvement with Hockey Canada is just one part of his love of
hockey. He didn’t play the game as a child and started around the age of
30, when Hudson’s interest in hockey began. Both of his children – Hudson
is now 21 and Rachel is 19 – grew up at the rink, both played hockey and
Henderson and his wife lent countless hours to minor hockey as volunteers –
he a coach and she a team manager.
It has been just over 10 years since Dawson Creek hosted Team Canada at
that boot camp and the community continues to rally around Hockey Canada
“Our city is very fortunate to have a core group of volunteers who got
involved in 2009-10,” he says. “We have been able to keep that core group
together. That makes it a lot easier from a host community perspective to
pull off these events. Everybody takes pride in this and we all strive to
do a good job.”