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Cree Ojibwa artist Shawna Grapentine

Indigenous women design Player of the Game sticks

Four Ontario women got the call to design a unique keepsake for players at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship

Nicholas Pescod & Jonathan Yue
|
April 05, 2023

It was May 2022 and Angela Jason found herself working at a corporate job in Thunder Bay.

“I just kind of stopped having my heart in it,” Jason recalls.

That’s when the Ojibwe woman from Sheshegwaning First Nation, who had been painting and creating art in her free time for years, began having serious thoughts about life outside of the corporate world.

“It got to a point where I needed to ask myself … at what point am I kind of doing a disservice with my mental health by trying to hang on and at what point is the company not really benefiting from my time trying to hang on?” says Jason.

Eventually, she decided to quit her job and become a full-time artist.

“I put in my two-week notice and I’ve been doing art since. It’s tough. Of course, anything worth doing tends to be a little bit scary,” says Jason, who works in a range of mediums that includes acrylic painting, stained glass, digital artwork and mural work.

Fast-forward nearly a year and the artist’s decision is paying off. Jason is one of four Indigenous women from Ontario chosen to design the Player of the Game sticks, which will be handed out over the course of 31 games at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton.

“It’s humbling,” says Jason, “It is acknowledging that my talent and skill is being recognized on such a stage, which is a huge honour.”

Cree Ojibwa artist Shawna Grapentine of Rainy River, Ont., Anishinaabe artist Cathie Jamieson and Shenoa Simon of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation were also selected to create Player of the Game stick designs.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” says Jamieson, who is from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation but lives on Manitoulin Island. “I wasn’t expecting to be selected because I have never entered into anything like this before.”

This is not the first time Player of the Game sticks have featured Indigenous designs at Hockey Canada-hosted events.

Alberta-based artist Jason Carter created designs on the sticks handed out at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and four Indigenous artists from Atlantic Canada were called on to design the sticks at the 2023 World Juniors in Halifax and Moncton. 

However, the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship will be the first time that all the participating artists, many of whom are self-taught, are women. 

“This truly is an honour,” says Grapentine, who owns Moon & Back Custom Arts. “To be on such a worldwide scale with Hockey Canada and the IIHF Women’s World Championship, representing not just Indigenous women but women as a whole and as an artist, to have my piece seen and represented in that way, it truly means a lot to me.”

Symbolic designs inspired by women

Called “Free Spirit,” Grapentine’s design is of a woman’s face with multicoloured hair flowing across the blade. The colours represent different races, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the female experience. 

“When I sat down to design the piece that was chosen, it was thinking about the shape of the stick, the blade, and what it represents to be a female in sports and just thinking about women and their walks of life,” says Grapentine. “From race to being a mom to being a business owner, all these different hats and journeys that so many women experience.” 

Inspired by the movement that hockey players make, Jamieson opted for a large eagle at the end of the blade facing towards the shaft of the stick.

“It's highly regarded for being a messenger, but also because of its strengths and qualities of speed, agility, sight, you know, swift, meticulous, moves in action,” says Jamieson, who works with a variety of mediums that includes acrylics. “These women in this championship, they're just as swift and meticulous and as elegant as these birds, these eagles, our messengers.” 

In front of the eagle is a series of colourful circles and a floral arrangement, which represents the life cycle. 

“Those colour nodes reflect … those stages of life, those life cycles when you're growing from a baby, a youth an adult to an elder and that you'll have your family always around you and with you,” says Jamieson. “I took that concept is our women are carriers of messages.”

Meanwhile, Simon’s design features a snapping turtle surrounded by water.

“I want other individuals to be inspired and curious when they see my art, and to create their path in the world that will lead them to achieve great things and to do the same for others,” says the 21-year-old.

Jason also opted for a woman in her design, creating a stylized profile of an Indigenous woman’s face at the base of the blade looking upwards.

“With Hockey Canada and it being a kind of a celebration of the women that make up these teams, I did want to feature a profile of a woman, not so much with detailed features that you can look at and go ‘Oh that’s so and so’ but more something that anyone can kind of see in themselves,” explains Jason.

Above the woman’s face and running up the shaft of the stick are the provincial and territorial flowers of Canada in a stylized Ojibwe floral pattern.

“This tournament has players from all over the world but just with it being held in Canada, I wanted to kind of focus on that side,” says Jason. “The reason why I chose flowers is just their versatility, it's not just their physical beauty, but also their resilience."

The position of the woman’s face is symbolic because it represents the idea of women being the foundation of a community, according to Jason.

“Whether that community is kind of on the larger scale, like something with Hockey Canada or something smaller,” she says. “Whether it's your hometown or if your community is your group of friends or just even at home, women do have a very, very strong foundational role in those communities.”

Jamie Keeley.

A hockey mom, a hockey coach, a hockey leader

Armed with a passion for helping women find confidence behind the bench, Jamie Keeley has created opportunities in her association, in Calgary and across Alberta

Jason La Rose
|
July 05, 2024
The genesis of Jamie Keeley’s minor hockey coaching journey was about as Canadian as it gets – just a parent wanting to enjoy the hockey experience with their child.

“It was seeing my son on the ice and just having that want and desire to be out there with him and experience what he was experiencing, helping him learn,” she says.

That was almost six years ago.

Today, Keeley is the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award recipient in the Community category, and the creator of a thriving coach development program with the Knights Hockey Club in Calgary.

“I think it’s important for women to realize that they have so much to offer and that what they have to offer is recognized and is appreciated,” Keeley says of the BFL CANADA honour. “This award gives that; it brings light to [the fact] that we can do this. We’re here now, and let’s keep blazing trails and breaking ceilings and all of those amazing things.”

A ringette player growing up who dabbled in hockey when the boys’ team in her northern Saskatchewan community needed bodies to fill out the lineup, Keeley had never given much thought to coaching until her son got into the game at the Timbits U7 level in the fall of 2018.

When she wasn’t selected to coach the following season in U9, her attention turned back to her first athletic love and she joined the Bow View Ringette Association, working as an assistant coach and head coach at U10 and U12.

“[It was about] learning and gaining the confidence that I needed to step back into hockey and make a difference,” she says of her three years with Bow View.

The word that continually comes up is process – Keeley spent those seasons observing other coaches, ensuring she was surrounded by the right people, building her coaching support system, filling her toolbox and learning how to be a coach in the competitive space.

One of her biggest takeaways? No one does it alone.

“What I believe makes the most successful coach is to surround themselves with people for the skills that they don’t currently have,” Keeley says. “And so for me, I always make sure that I have a very, very rounded team of people that can offset the skills that I don’t have, that I can learn from.”

When the 2022-23 hockey season rolled around, Keeley was ready to get back behind the bench with her son at the U11 level.

But she didn’t come back to hockey empty-handed. In addition to the skills she had learned with Bow View, Keeley came armed with a proposal for a coach development program targeted at women.

“The program was not so much about giving women all the tools they needed to be a coach,” she says. “It starts with having the confidence to put up their hand and say, ‘Yeah, I have something to offer.’ It was really about just helping the ladies to make that decision to put up their hand and to help them have that confidence to step on the ice.

“One of the objectives was to make sure that we had strong female leadership to keep girls in sport, because that’s important. What if we have strong leadership from the same gender on the ice? Would that make a difference? Would girls want to stay [involved in hockey] if they saw strong female coaches on the ice?”

The association was quick to jump at the proposal, and Keeley was off and running.

“Where we started was I held one on-ice session to begin with, and we had 12 ladies that put up their hand and came out,” she says. “And really what it was about more than anything was just to see what this program was all about.

“I had an hour-and-a-half ice time, and I think we spent 20 minutes on the ice. What we spent more time doing was talking about if this was the right fit for them, if they had the confidence to put their skates on and what this was going to look like if they actually got selected to be on the ice with their kid. It was amazing to hear females talk about challenges and obstacles and barriers, and me as a part of launching this program, being able to provide that space to have those open and honest conversations that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

What was originally meant to be a local program for women in the Knights program rapidly turned into something much bigger, much to Keeley’s delight.

Next was a training course, with the help of Hockey Alberta – the province’s first women-only Coach 2 clinic.

“At first, I was just opening it to the [local] group that had shown interest. Then we decided to open up to all of Alberta. And so on a very snowy November day, we had 24 females sitting in a room from across Alberta. We did the four-hour classroom, and then the next day we met for another seven [hours].

“That’s where the network started. A lot of us still keep in contact, and we send out emails to each other, and when there is an event happening for all female coaches, we make sure that we share and attend.”

In that first season, nine women were behind the bench with the Knights Hockey Club. During the 2023-24 season, that number grew to 14 – two as head coaches and 12 as assistants.

Keeley hosted a start-of-season meeting in September to teach coaches how to prepare a season plan and build practice plans, and had regular check-ins with every coach involved in the program, working through any challenges they were facing and ensuring they were getting what they needed from the experience.

She also continues to work closely with Hockey Calgary, participating in ongoing opportunities for women in coaching, including on- and off-ice development sessions.

But her No. 1 role is still being a mom, and there are few things that give her more joy than sharing hockey with her son. This season, Keeley led the U13 Tier 4 team.

“I always ask if he wants me to coach,” she says of her son. “And that even existed when I went and coached ringette because, of course, I wasn’t with him. I was always a non-parent coach in ringette, and I would ask him every season, ‘Are you okay if I do this?’

“When I coached the U12 AA team [in the spring of 2022], I was away quite a bit. We were on the ice five times a week. That was the first time he ever said to me, ‘Mom, I miss you. Can you come coach me?’

“We’re just in the midst of filling out our application for this upcoming season, which is his second year of U13. And he said, ‘Mom, are you going to coach again?’ I said, ‘Do you want me to?’ He said, ‘As long as you want to.’ So yes, I’m going to apply to be a coach again.”

That’s a lucky son, and a lucky association that gets to benefit from what Keeley has to offer.

But ask her, and she’ll tell you just the opposite – that she’s the lucky one, benefitting from what the players can offer her.

“I have had some really amazing experiences both on and off the ice, just learning from these players. The amount, if you sit back and you listen, that you can learn is just unbelievable, and they always make you smile.”

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Shakita Jensen.

Giving back through coaching

Guided by influential coaches during her playing days, Shakita Jensen knew she wanted to give back to the game she loved by becoming a coach in her hometown

Shannon Coulter
|
July 04, 2024

It was a full circle moment for Shakita Jensen when she stepped on the bench as head coach of Team Northwest Territories at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

In 2014, she played in the tournament in Alaska. A decade later, she returned to Alaska to coach.

“I felt a lot of emotions,” says Jensen, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the Competitive category.

Jensen, from the Tahltan First Nation, started as an on-ice volunteer with the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in 2014. Since then, her passion for giving back has driven her to continue her coaching journey.

“The hockey community has given me so much that I felt an obligation to want to give back to the hockey community in any way I could,” Jensen says. “When I got back from school, I was like, ‘I should probably try coaching, see if I like it.’ And of course I liked it right away.”

In addition to giving back, a few impactful women who coached Jensen growing up opened her eyes to her own potential journey.

“Having my first female head coach was super cool, and that made me want to get into coaching,” she says. “Growing up, being sometimes the only girl on my hockey teams, not really many women coaching, and then having my first few female coaches thinking, ‘Wow they’re so cool, I want to be like them one day.’”

The position of being a role model and a leader for youth in her community was also a driving factor in wanting to become a coach.

“I’ve had so many influential coaches in my own playing career. [There are] everlasting impacts they can have on their players, not only on the ice, but off the ice as people as well, what you can teach your players as a coach. I felt that I had lots to offer [as a head coach] and I wanted to be there for kids.”

Shakita Jensen coaching Team NWT at a One For All practice.

 Jensen was in the right place at the right time to get her first head coaching position. There was a shortage of coaches in her association, so they asked Jensen—who initially applied to be an on-ice helper—if she wanted to be a head coach.

“It was a lot of quick learning and kind of being thrown into it, but I felt confident in myself the whole time,” the 26-year-old explains. “I just tried to network with past coaches as much as I could to have a successful season, which I think I did.”

Early in her career, Jensen decided to apply to be a part of the 2023 Canada Winter Games coaching staff for Team NWT, but she wasn’t selected. However, one of the coaches recommended she apply for the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach program with the Aboriginal Sports Circle.

“They chose one woman and one man from the territory, and it could be from any sport, so I knew that it was a bit of a long shot, but when I heard I got in for hockey, I was super excited.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Jensen was able to attend last year’s Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island and work with Team NWT leading up to the event. Afterwards, she became an assistant coach for Team NWT for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games before being promoted to head coach for the 2024 tournament.

“I think that definitely opened a lot of doors,” she says. “It was cool to see the progression and to allow me to gain all the tools and resources that I needed to prepare my team.”

As head coach of Team NWT, the location of each player’s hometowns can often be difficult to navigate—sometimes resulting in very few full team practices before an event.

“It was definitely a challenge wanting to build your team culture and work on your strategies and trying to prepare for a high-performance, short-term competition when your team is scattered all over the territories, in some places that are fly in/fly out or just a lot of money barriers,” she explains. “I think one thing that was super helpful was our ability to connect online leading up to the Games.”

Another huge opportunity for Jensen’s team this year was February’s One For All event in Yellowknife. With more than 300 participants over four days, the event celebrated women’s and girls’ hockey with Try Hockey events, on-ice skills, coaching clinics and more.

Team Northwest Territories and Team Nunavut gathered to practice and face off in an exhibition game.

“It was an overwhelming successful weekend—players putting on their hockey gear for the first time and then other players who were about to be graduating minor hockey,” says Jensen, who volunteered with the event. “It felt super to contribute to that program, give back and hopefully keep that program on a yearly basis here.”

When Jensen found out she was the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner for Hockey North in the Competitive category, she was shocked.

“I was so surprised, kind of caught off guard. I felt so much pride and gratitude.”

Jensen was unsure if she would be able to compete with the great provincial and territorial candidates across the country. But when she saw Cassie Campbell-Pascall on a video call congratulating her for winning the national award, she was in disbelief all over again.

“There are really no words,” she says of winning the national award. “There are so many influential coaches who go unrecognized sometimes for all the work they do. [I’m] really feeling proud of myself, but also feeling proud of everyone else across Canada who’s doing so much for the women’s game.”

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Cayden Lindstrom at the 2024 NHL Draft (left) and on ice at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (right).

Alumni take next step in Vegas

Led by No. 4 pick Cayden Lindstrom, 53 Hlinka Gretzky Cup alumni heard their names called at the 2024 NHL Draft

Jason La Rose
|
July 03, 2024

Hlinka Gretzky Cup alumni went early and often at the 2024 NHL Draft, with 10 first-round selections from four countries leading a group of 53 who pulled on an NHL jersey for the first time at the Sphere in Las Vegas.

The first alumnus off the board was the fourth player selected. Cayden Lindstrom scored twice (including a goal in the gold medal game) and added an assist in five games to help Canada win a 24th summer U18 gold at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

In all, three of the first nine picks and six of the first 20 were alumni, and six countries were represented.

Canada – 17

Cole Beaudoin, Berkly Catton, Ben Danford, Sam Dickinson, Charlie Elick, Carter George, Liam Greentree, Tanner Howe, Ollie Josephson, Ryerson Leenders, Cayden Lindstrom, Maxim Massé, Henry Mews, Zayne Parekh, Justin Poirier, Ryder Ritchie, Carson Wetsch

Finland – 10

Emil Hemming, Aron Kiviharju, Markus Loponen, Julius Miettinen, Niilopekka Muhonen, Heikki Ruohonen, Joona Saarelainen, Kim Saarinen, Veeti Väisänen, Eemil Vinni

Czechia – 9

Dominik Badinka, Ales Cech, Maxmilian Curran, Jakub Fibigr, Adam Jecho, Adam Jiricek, Ondrej Kos, Jakub Milota, Petr Sikora

United States – 8

Trevor Connelly, Joe Connor, Tanner Henricks, Adam Kleber, Tory Pitner, AJ Spellacy, Mac Swanson, Will Zellers

Sweden – 6

Alfons Freij, Gabriel Eliasson, Linus Eriksson, Melvin Fernström, Lucas Pettersson, Leo Sahlin Wallenius

Switzerland – 3

Christian Kirsch, Leon Muggli, Basile Sansonnens

The Canadians’ total includes 16 members of the team that won gold last summer in Breclav and Trencin (of the 17 who were draft eligible), highlighted by captain Berkly Catton. The Seattle first-round selection (eighth overall) scored eight goals in five games—the second-most ever by a Canadian at a summer U18 tournament—and co-led the tournament in scoring with 10 points (8-2—10).

Five of the top 10 point-getters from the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup were chosen. American Trevor Connelly (5-5—10), who finished tied with Catton and Czech forward Adam Benak (who isn’t eligible until the 2025 draft), went to the Vegas Golden Knights with the 19th pick in the first round.

The 2024 Hlinka Gretzky Cup runs Aug. 5-10 in Edmonton, putting the top prospects for the 2025 NHL Draft on display in best-on-best competition. Single-game tickets are now on sale, beginning as low as $20 a game, with multiple ticket package options also available.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit HlinkaGretzkyCup.ca.

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Kelly Paton with the BFL Canada Women in Coaching logo.

The importance of mentorship

When Kelly Paton began her coaching journey after she hung up her skates, it was her coaching mentors that were key to helping her develop confidence behind the bench

Shannon Coulter
|
July 03, 2024

Even as a player, Kelly Paton had always taken an interest in what happens behind the scenes in hockey. She took opportunities to learn more about the game from her coaching staff, including how staff helped to support student-athletes while she attended the University of New Hampshire.

That, along with her strong hockey IQ, led Paton’s head coach, Brian McCloskey, to give her a piece of advice: “Patty, you’re a coach.”

“He just kept telling me I was a coach,” says Paton, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the High Performance category. “Certainly, I was interested; I didn’t have my mind made up. I wanted to find ways to stay connected to the game and at that point, with some limitations of hockey beyond college, that was probably my best pathway for it.”

A Woodstock, Ontario, native who has spent the last six seasons as head coach of the women’s hockey team at Wilfrid Laurier University, Paton grew up in an athletic family. When her older brother started playing hockey, Paton wanted to start playing as well.

“Many days were spent in our cul-de-sac; I got stuck in the goalie position and his friends would shoot many pucks and balls my way,” Paton says. “That’s probably where my interest started.”

Paton initially played boys hockey in her hometown until switching to girls’ hockey with the London Devilettes. After her final year of minor hockey, she spent four years at New Hampshire, serving as captain and finishing as a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior in the 2009-10 season.

“[It] helped shape my confidence in my ability to play the game, but then big picture, how there are ways where I could give back and help the development of others,” Paton says of her time as a Wildcat. “I think that’s where I had some affirmation that my IQ for the game was pretty good and that aligned really well with coaching.”

Kelly Paton coaches the Laurier women's team during a break in play.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Paton wasn’t sure how she wanted to incorporate coaching into her life, whether as a volunteer or as a career. But after finishing a graduate degree at Mercyhurst University and then living on Vancouver Island for a while, she decided to return home to Southwestern Ontario and get back involved with the game she loved.

She reconnected with her minor hockey roots by taking on a coaching role with the Devilettes’ junior program. There, Paton credits Dwayne Blais for being one of her mentors as she began her coaching journey.

“I was the head coach, but he certainly was the one I leaned on the most with being mentored and learning how to manage conflict, how to manage expectation, but more importantly just building practice plans that supported development.”

After reconnecting with one of her junior coaches, Paton was presented with an opportunity to join Western University as an assistant coach.

“I walked into a space where [the Mustangs] were coming off a national championship, which came with a lot of expectations,” Paton says. “I was happy we were still able to carry out some of that momentum and be a top performer in the OUA.”

Paton served as an assistant coach for two years before being promoted to head coach at Western. Ahead of the 2018-19 season, she made the move to Laurier.

“We’re coming off a great season this past year and our leadership group has done an excellent job of really stepping into a space where they’re allowing me to coach, which is awesome,” she says. “We’re certainly a team that carries high expectations, knowing that we still have responsibility to carry the legacy of Laurier hockey. […] The goal is to keep moving forward. I certainly think we’re in the right pathway to do that, and a lot of that is a testament to the players that we have in our program now.”

Kelly Paton looks on from the bench.

Reflecting on her time coaching in U SPORTS, one of the bigger transitions for Paton was navigating how to match her communication to each individual player on her team.

“In the university sector, it can get really challenging to satisfy 25 athletes with all different learning styles and still walk away and feel like we got through what we needed to get through today,” she explains. “Now with experience, I’ve learned that’s part of the process. But when I was younger, that day-to-day management of seeing where everybody’s at—generally the only way to figure that out is to ask, and that’s where the communication piece is.”

Building relationships has been key to Paton’s coaching journey, and she is grateful to have found a support system in her corner as she continues to develop as a coach.

“It’s been a pretty critical piece to finding confidence in myself,” Paton says of her mentors. “There’s been a couple that have been instrumental with shaping my coaching style, my communication style, my knowledge of the game. Dwayne was a big piece of that, Rachel Flanagan, and even my college coach, Brian. I still speak with him [14 years after graduating].”

For those looking to begin their coaching journeys or advance their coaching career into the high-performance area, Paton’s advice would be to stay honest and accountable.

“When mistakes happen, don’t shy away from taking ownership of that. If there are areas that are challenging or you need advice on, that’s where that mentorship really comes in handy; having somebody that’s a neutral soundboard that’s going to help you make decisions without carried bias or carried experiences.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve had those opportunities to have good people around me and have the confidence that went up when mistakes are made, and that helps trickle into the player group as well.”

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Canadian duo gets called to the Hall

Shea Weber and Colin Campbell part of Class of 2024 for Hockey Hall of Fame

Jason La Rose
|
June 26, 2024

When the Class of 2024 goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame this fall, there will be a little bit of Canadian content.

Of the seven names announced Tuesday, two have a distinct Canadian connection – Shea Weber will be enshrined in the player category, while Colin Campbell will go in as a builder.

A closer look at the inductees…

Shea Weber is one of the most decorated defencemen in Team Canada history, winning a pair of Olympic gold medals, gold at the IIHF World Championship and gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship, along with a World Cup of Hockey title.

The Sicamous, B.C., product wore the Maple Leaf on six occasions, and only once – at the 2009 IIHF World Championship, when Canada finished with silver – did he not leave with the top prize.

Despite the silver medal, that 2009 Men’s Worlds was arguably his best international performance – he led all blue-liners in scoring with 12 points (4-8—12) in seven games, was named Best Defenceman and earned a place on the Media All-Star Team.

Weber was part of the ‘Dream Team’ at the 2005 World Juniors, winning gold, and followed that up with gold at the 2007 IIHF World Championship at the conclusion of his second NHL season. Three years later, he contributed six points (2-4—6) in seven games to help Canada to a home-ice Olympic gold in Vancouver, and added six more (3-3—6) in six games in 2014 for another Olympic gold.

The tournament in Sochi included Weber’s biggest Team Canada contribution; the game-winning goal in the third period of a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Latvia.

Outside of the international accomplishments, Weber was a three-time finalist for the Norris Trophy (2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14), a Mark Messier Leadership Award recipient (2015-16) and a six-time NHL All-Star who captained the Nashville Predators (2010-16) and Montreal Canadiens (2018-22).

Colin Campbell, who has served as senior executive vice-president of hockey operations with the National Hockey League since 1998, has spent five decades involved in the NHL as a player, coach and executive.

A veteran of 636 games as a player with Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Edmonton and Detroit, the Tillsonburg, Ontario, native also spent 12 seasons as a coach with the Red Wings and New York Rangers, helping the Rangers end a 54-year Stanley Cup drought as associate coach in 1994 before serving as head coach for the following three seasons.

For the last 26 years, Campbell has left his mark on hockey operations, officiating and central scouting with the NHL, helping shape the way the game is played today,

Weber and Campbell will officially be inducted on Nov. 11 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, joined by fellow inductees Natalie Darwitz, Pavel Datsyuk, David Poile, Jeremy Roenick and Krissy Wendell-Pohl.

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Emerance Maschmeyer

In My Own Words: Emerance Maschmeyer

The National Women’s Team goaltender talks about life with partner Geneviève Lacasse, starting a family, being a trailblazer in the PWHL and the importance of being one’s true self

Emerance Maschmeyer
|
June 15, 2024

A few of our friends described it as a “hard launch.”

Geneviève and I decided not to officially “come out,” but instead we decided to just post the photos from our wedding last July. At that point, our friends, our families, our circle – the people who meant the most – all knew about our relationship.

We wondered if we needed to have a big coming out story. But we thought posting the photos of the day was a fun way of saying, “This is us. We got married,” like anyone else would post about getting married. It was time for us to just put ourselves out there and not be scared. There was so much love and support, and it was just so inspiring to see the effect we were able to have, just posting about our relationship.

We have a platform and influence, and we have people who follow our journeys. At the end of the day, those who support us will support us, and we want them in our lives, and we want to connect with them, but those who don’t, that’s all right.

We knew the impact we could have sharing our relationship and sharing our story; we knew there would be a positive impact, and we could help so many other individuals with their journey. And so maybe with age, there was some courage in telling our story, but we have all the support we need. So, for us, it was – how do we help others and support others now?

Going public was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders that neither of us recognized was there. And now I feel like we’re very open to having conversations, talking about our relationship and being our true selves. It’s been a rewarding journey. It was only a year ago, and it’s been so fun to just be out there and be us as a couple.

Geneviève and I started dating in 2015. I told my sister pretty early on about our relationship. Geneviève was the first woman that I ever dated. So, I also wanted to make sure that it was something, a longstanding relationship, before I told my entire family, which I would’ve done in any relationship that I was in.

I was in school at Harvard at the time, and so my teammates and friends at school knew early as well. And I knew I wanted to tell my family, but I wanted to do it in person. I didn’t want to make it a big deal, but I also know the norm in society is still, you’re heterosexual until you say otherwise. You have to come out and tell your story. I wanted to make it as normal as possible, but I also wanted to have in-person conversations with my family.

About a year after we started dating, I started telling my family. I told my parents one at a time. I went through my family. And I have a big family, so it was a lot of conversations. Being young, I was 20 years old, I was quite nervous about the conversations, but ultimately my family was so supportive– every conversation left me with ‘my family supports me and loves me no matter who I love.’ I know that’s not the case for everyone, but I am very fortunate to have a family that has my back no matter what. They were just happy I was in a loving relationship.

There were hesitations in coming out publicly, but it didn’t really have anything to do with our sexuality. It had everything to do with the fact that both of us were still active with the National Women’s Team, and we didn’t want our news to be about our relationship or our sexuality. We wanted it to be about hockey and our performance.

It’s certainly not easy when you and your partner share a profession. At the beginning, we had to say to each other that in many ways our relationship comes first, but we also have to put our own hockey first. And not in a selfish way, it’s more like… “If you do everything you can to make a team and to put yourself in a position to play, and I do everything I can to make a team and put myself in a position to play, then it’s not up to us. It’s up to the coach, it’s up to the scouts, it’s up to external factors.”

We were on the journey together, we were working hard and doing everything we could do individually, but when it came down to those decisions, we weren’t angry at each other. We could feel empathy if one played over the other, but at the end of the day, if one of us is in net, then it became, “Okay, I support you or you support me.”

We did have some bumps in the road along the way. I was released from the 2018 Olympics and she made the team. And then vice versa, in 2022, I made the Olympic team and she was released. This presented us with a big learning opportunity in our relationship. The first time around when I was released, we weren’t equipped with the skills to handle it. It was a big dream of mine to make that team and to play in the Olympics. And what do you say to your partner on either end, the one who makes it or the one who doesn’t? Navigating the situation and our dynamic was complex. We were supportive of one another, and to protect our relationship we felt that not talking about hockey was the best course.

The second time around, going into Beijing, we learned how to talk through it. We gained an understanding of how to have difficult conversations, to talk about how we feel. We wish that neither of those situations happened, but they actually made our relationship a lot stronger. We have acquired the skills to support each other and communicate through difficult situations, and recognize the importance of continuously practicing and refining those skills.

We found out we were pregnant in late 2023, a few months after we got married. We’re fortunate that we have friends that have gone through the fertility treatment process that we could use as a resource, and so we asked a lot of questions. We did a lot of research. We were living in Quebec, and luckily there’s funding to make the financial burden easier. Our journey to conception wasn’t long, and for that we are grateful.

It’s been quite a journey. We’re so excited to start our family and welcome our little boy to the world. It’s something that we had been wanting to do for so long, but having us both playing, it wasn’t really a possibility, especially without the salaries and security of a professional league. But now we’re finally in a position where I’m playing in the PWHL and Geneviève has security in her job as manager of corporate sponsorships and sales with the league. It’s the most security and stability we’ve had in a long time, and we’re excited to start our family.

We are looking forward to having our son grow up around strong women. And we know that he’ll grow up to respect women and look at women’s athletes as just athletes.

And I can’t forget the gender reveal! I was sitting on the bus with Emily Clark on a road trip this year, and we were chatting about doing a gender reveal, and just brainstorming some ideas. And then somehow it came up that it would be so fun to have an obstacle course and have the team involved. It evolved into Clark vs. Jenner, boy vs. girl, and went from there.

Geneviève and I gave them the link to the gender, because we wanted to be surprised as well. We set up one day after practice, and Clarky and Jenner, they came up with how the race would go. It turned out so good!

This year has been such a whirlwind. The wedding, the announcement of the PWHL, signing with Ottawa, finding out we were pregnant, launching the league, winning another world championship … hard to believe that’s only the last 11 months.

It’s been so incredible, the momentum that we have in the PWHL, the fandom, the support, the investment and the visibility. And just the growth that we’ve had within just our first season. Being a professional hockey player still feels surreal to me, but the pride I felt every time I stepped onto the ice with my teammates in Ottawa this season … it’s indescribable to be part of something so special.

Obviously, there’s still a long way to go for equity and parity, but we’ve made some huge steps in the past few years. Even in the grassroots now, there’s that ripple effect from the PWHL of getting women in sport and staying in sport.

At our games, I see young fans, not just young girls, but young boys too who just see us as hockey players. They don’t see us as women’s hockey players. They’re looking up to us like, “You’re my favourite player, you’re my favourite goalie.” They’re not saying, “You’re my favourite female goalie.” It’s been fantastic to see the shift in the mindset, and there are so many more stepping stones to come.

Because it is Pride Month, which means so much to me, I did want to end with a few thoughts.

Individually, everyone can look inward and see where they can do the work. I think often, people lead with assumptions when meeting someone. But we can all do a better job at letting them tell their story versus labelling them with, ‘You are this or you are that.’ It can be intimidating to be your true self because of preconceived assumptions.

Unfortunately, there’s going to be hate online. That’s unavoidable in the social media age we live in. But I think as much as we can, we need to hold on to the love and the support, and ensure the kind, loving, supportive voices drown out the negative ones.

As someone who’s in a same-sex relationship, I know that at times I can still be a little timid or discouraged to be my true self, but for those in our community, I encourage you to be as courageous as you can. Be your true self. If you come into a conversation and lead with your authentic self, it will start changing minds slowly. One person at a time.

We are moving in the right direction, and together is how we’re going to keep moving.

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Embracing a new life through hockey

Bridget Vales had never heard of hockey until she moved from the Philippines to Saskatchewan; now she can’t get enough of Canada’s game

Katie Brickman
|
May 24, 2024

Bridget Vales got her first taste of hockey when she went to her stepbrother’s practice shortly after she moved from the Philippines to White City, Saskatchewan, when she was eight years old, and pretty quickly she was interested in trying it out herself.

That first experience didn’t go as expected.

“It was tough,” Bridget, now 14, says. “It was embarrassing for me [at the beginning] because when I went to the tryouts, I didn’t know how to skate. I cried at the rink because everyone was better than me.”

In the end, she made the team and got better every game. The next season, when she was nine years old, she made the ‘B’ team with the Prairie Storm Minor Hockey Association and worked hard to improve her skating and skills.

“I felt happy with how much I improved in hockey,” she says. “But the transition was difficult.”

Bridget comes by the passion of the game naturally. Her mom, Reynilda Vales, quickly fell in love with hockey after moving to Canada from the Philippines on a work visa as a midwife in April 2015. She couldn’t bring any family members at that time, but after two years, she got her Canadian permanent residency and was able to bring Bridget to Regina in 2018. Her employer at the time introduced her to hockey and the love affair began.

“It was my plan to put Bridget in hockey. I am crazy about hockey. I am loud with my intense cheering … I am crazy at the rink,” Reynilda says. “Being from the Philippines, it’s very warm, but when the kids are playing hockey, I don’t care about the cold.”

Growing up in the Philippines, Bridget focused on school and didn’t play any sports. Since moving to Canada, she has embraced her athletic side and participates in hockey, baseball, lacrosse, badminton, volleyball and track. Hockey, though, is her favourite.

“I love to play games and meet new teammates. My favourite part is skating and hitting,” she says. “Hockey is my favourite sport because it just gives me so much joy and excitement. I just love playing it because it’s such a fun sport.”

Hockey is just one of the ways Bridget came to better understand life in Canada. Not only is she able to meet new people and create friendships, but it has also helped her transition to a new life with a different culture, climate, food, language and school.

“I’m glad Canadians love to play hockey. It’s fun learning about hockey because it’s a fun sport to play and watch,” she says. “I feel accepted because I’m in a sport and hockey has been able to give me a team where you feel like you are a part of something bigger.”

Reynilda has been an influence for Bridget in life – helping her navigate coming to a new city and new country, and setting up a new life.

“It’s easy for me to guide my daughter because I came here first and I encountered the same feedback about our culture,” says Reynilda. “Hockey is a part of our lives now. It keeps us busy, and it helps us to focus on the kids’ well-being. It’s just our day-to-day life now.”

It’s not easy making a major life change and moving to another country, but hockey has been valuable in making things easier. The comments Reynilda gets now, it shows how much Bridget has grown.

“The parents now ask if Bridget grew up here because of the way she skates … she doesn’t look like she just started playing hockey,” says Reynilda. “The progress has been unbelievable. I think it’s because hockey is in her heart. She loves it.”

Reynilda and Bridget have fully embraced the Canadian way of life – from learning to ice fish to hockey – but they also share their culture with others.

“I used to be embarrassed because I was different, but now when people find out I’m Filipino, they are interested in finding out more about me and my culture; they want to know my language,” Bridget says. “That makes me happy to share who I am. Hockey has made me feel like everyone else and I feel at home.”

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Centennial Cup at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario

11 days in Oakville, by the numbers

A facts-and-figures look at the 2024 Centennial Cup, on and off the ice

Shannon Coulter
|
May 19, 2024

From 117 teams down to two, either the Collingwood Blues or the Melfort Mustangs will be lifting the Centennial Cup.

As we prepare to crown Canada’s national Junior A champions, let’s look back at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, by the numbers.

3 – Shutouts through the semifinals; Collingwood’s Noak Pak (against Longueuil), Winkler’s Malachi Klassen (against Oakville) and Greater Sudbury’s Noah Beaulne (against Longueuil) all earned clean sheets.

7 – Days between when the Miramichi Timberwolves won the MHL championship to qualify for the Centennial Cup and their first game of the tournament.

16 – Officials who worked the Centennial Cup. The crew had a wide representation from across the country, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia.

29 – Shootout attempts by players; the Melfort Mustangs, Calgary Canucks and Miramichi Timberwolves each earned shootout victories in the preliminary round, with none going past the required five rounds.

40 – Days between the conclusion of the host Oakville Blades’ playoff run and their first game of the tournament, the longest break of any competing team (the Calgary Canucks had the second-longest at 22 days).

49 – Power play goals scored through the semifinals. Spencer Young and Cody Pisarczyk lead the tournament with three power play goals each.

141 – Media interviews conducted through the semifinals. This includes broadcast interviews for the HockeyCanada.ca livestream, accredited media from the CJHL and Hockey Canada feature stories.

120 – Volunteers to help the tournament run behind the scenes, including off-ice officials, team services and transportation.

121 – Canadians who attended their first hockey game through the Tim Hortons Families First Faceoff Initative. The families were treated to Hockey Canada swag and centre-ice tickets, and enjoyed Tim Hortons after the game.

150 – Members of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies who attended the preliminary-round game between the Sioux Lookout Bombers and Melfort Mustangs in honour of Children and Youth in Care Day, celebrated on May 14.

167 – Goals scored through the semifinals. Miramichi Timberwolves’ Elliot Robert had seven goals in six games for the most goals by one player.

377 – Accreditations issued for team personnel.

678 – Pucks used through the semifinals.

1,455 – Minutes of hockey played through the semifinals. Only three games went beyond 60 minutes – Melfort vs. Winkler, Calgary vs. Navan and Miramichi vs. Winkler all required shootouts to decide a winner.

1,440 – Bottles of Gatorade consumed by the 10 teams.

1,497 – Students and staff that cheered on teams during the five school-day games.

9,204 – Kilometres travelled by all teams to Oakville (according to Google Maps). The shortest distance travelled was by the Collingwood Blues, who are 124.6 km away, while the Calgary Canucks travelled 2700.5 km to compete.

39,423 – Photos taken by Hockey Canada Images photographers Heather Pollock and Lori Bolliger through the semifinals. They included on-ice action, player headshots, behind-the-scenes exclusives and partner activations.

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Molinaro gets his moment

After getting a taste of the Centennial Cup last season, albeit from the sidelines, Julian Molinaro has backstopped the Calgary Canucks to the National Junior A Championship

Jason La Rose
|
May 17, 2024

One year ago, Julian Molinaro watched every second of the Centennial Cup from the bench.

In fact, the goaltender didn’t see the ice at all in the Collingwood Blues’ run to the quarterfinals of Canada’s National Junior A Championship, serving as backup as Noah Pak played every second of the Blues’ 24 postseason games.

But this season, it’s a much different story.

One thing has remained the same, though—Molinaro is back at the national championship. He’s just got a much more active role, stopping pucks for the Calgary Canucks as they chase a national title.

And since the hockey gods work in mysterious ways, it was fitting that when Molinaro and the Canucks hit the ice for their first game on May 9, it was Pak standing in the crease at the other end.

Neither goaltender will be adding that game to their personal highlight reel—Molinaro allowed five goals on 26 shots, while Pak surrendered four for just the sixth time in 62 starts as the Canucks dropped a 5-4 decision in a game dominated by special teams.

“Before [the game], I walked into the rink and I saw the Collingwood equipment manager, Richard Judges. So it was kind of crazy,” Molinaro says of seeing familiar faces. “Once I got on the ice, it was so weird playing against Noah and [Mark] McIntosh, [Spencer] Young, all those guys. Obviously, I didn't have my best [game]. Probably one of my worst games of the year, but it's all right. We'll see them again, hopefully.”

When the 2022-23 season ended for Collingwood with its 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Jr. Senators in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, so too did Molinaro’s time as a Blue. He was terrific as a backup, fashioning a 2.33 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 20 appearances, but with Pak set to return for a final Junior A season, Molinaro was ready for a change, and an opportunity to be a starter.

Enter Canucks head coach and general manager Brad Moran, who officially acquired the goaltender on July 11.

“I know he didn't play in the playoffs, but he had been through the experience,” Moran says of Molinaro’s time in Collingwood, “and to come through a winning team in a playoffs where you don't play, but have your teammates, coaches and everyone else commending you for the attitude [and] the effort was something that definitely opened our eyes.”

The Mississauga, Ontario, native was even better than advertised, leading all Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) puck-stoppers with 27 wins and six shutouts, and finishing third with a 2.60 GAA and .916 save percentage.

He then won 12 of his 15 postseason starts with terrific numbers (2.56 GAA, .908 SV%), backstopping the Canucks to their first AJHL championship since 1999 and their first trip to the Centennial Cup since they won their lone national title in 1995.

“Deep down I knew I could [be a starter], but you don't actually know until you do it,” Molinaro says. “And once I got the chance and the opportunity to run with things and Brad gave me the ball, I think I really got in the groove and it helped me a lot. It's a great feeling, knowing you have the whole staff and team behind you.”

“He came in, he was the top goalie in our league this year in my mind, and gave us a chance to win every night,” Moran adds. “He pushed our guys on and off the ice, and that's what we want.”

Two days after the Canucks finished their sweep of the Whitecourt Wolverines to win the AJHL title, Molinaro officially committed to Northern Michigan University, where he’ll join the Wildcats this fall.

It’s been nothing but success for the 20-year-old, and no one is happier for him than his former partner.

“He's got an unreal work ethic, one of the hardest working guys I know,” Pak says. “I'm super happy for him and getting his commitment and his success this year… couldn't be happier for him.”

But there’s one more piece of the puzzle that makes this homecoming even more special for Molinaro.

He and his father, Jason, were fixtures at Blades games as Julian grew up, and when the Canucks stepped onto the ice at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex for the first time, Molinaro knew just where to look.

“I almost started crying, because my dad was in the corner where we grew up watching Blades games,” he says. “I've been at this rink since I was seven years old watching the Blades every Friday night, and me and my dad always sat in the same corner, and now to be on the ice and him to be in that corner, I think it's unbelievable. It's really full circle.”

Now all that’s left is the Hollywood ending. The Canucks face the Winkler Flyers in a Friday quarterfinal, with a semifinal date with the Melfort Mustangs awaiting the winner.

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In my own words: Dampy Brar

The coach, mentor, teacher and Willie O’Ree Community Award winner talks about his journey in the game, and the importance of making an impact with the South Asian community

Dampy Brar
|
May 17, 2024

For countless generations, my family lived in Punjab, India. They were honest, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. Each generation took over the farming and continued the family traditions and lifestyle.

My dad had a different dream for himself and for his future family. A dream to come to Canada and start a new life with new opportunities. But he never imagined that his Canadian dream would include hockey.

At the age of four, I vividly remember sitting on the front step of our townhouse in Sparwood, B.C., the town I was born in, watching a group of older boys play street hockey. I was instantly intrigued. My dad recognized my interest and bought me a plastic hockey stick with a pink blade, yellow shaft and a black rubber knob, which also came with two plastic pucks. I would play non-stop in our undeveloped basement, shooting into a milk crate.

As the hockey season approached, we were fortunate enough to have older East Indian family friends whose boys played minor hockey in Sparwood, so my dad registered me. There was only one problem – I had never been on skates.

I was incredibly lucky to have a great skating instructor; his name was Tander Sandhu, and he was 11 years old. He says it took me 15 minutes in an old pair of his skates that weren’t even my size to start skating on my own. By the age of eight, I was moved up to play with the older kids after scoring 21 goals in two games.

I kept scoring several goals per game, and then early in the season when I was 11 years old, they implemented a rule that players could only score three goals in a game. Even though I was a playmaker and had a lot of assists, it was pretty well-known that this rule was created because of me. In hindsight, it made me an even better passer; however, my family always wonders if that rule was not implemented how much more attention and exposure would I have received in the hockey community.

I was born in Canada, and simply loved the game. I saw all my teammates and their families in the same manner, but not everyone looked at me as an equal. As a kid, perhaps I was oblivious to the looks and comments. The racism piece really came to light when I was eight. After my third goal, a player on the opposing team, who was from a nearby town, yelled something at me several times while I was taking the face-off against him. A word that started with the letter P, but I couldn’t fully understand what he was saying.

After scoring two more goals, he continued yelling the same word at me over and over again. I can still see what he was wearing, his facial expressions and his anger. I remember feeling scared. I didn’t know what I did wrong, and why he was so upset with me. My teammate told me he was saying something really bad about me. Something about how I look. The taunting continued, but I managed to focus on playing the game and having fun. After finishing the game with 13 goals, he shook my hand and said the word ‘Paki’ yet again, right to my face.

All weekend the incident rolled through my mind. On Monday morning at recess, I asked my older East Indian friend, who also played hockey, what ‘Paki’ meant. He explained that is what they call us in a negative way to make fun of us. It was a name assigned to me because of the colour of my skin.

I got used to hearing it over the years. However, the worst had to be hearing from a parent when I was 15 years old. Just before the game started, with the arena pretty quiet, the father of the opposing goaltender yelled to his son, “Don’t let that f*cking Paki score!” and then looked straight at me with glaring eyes.

Towards the end of that season, we went to a small town in Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta. It was a Friday night game, and a bunch of teenagers came to cheer on their home team. Instead of watching the game, they stood away from the parents and threw constant racial slurs at me while making inappropriate gestures.

I have never repeated what they said. But if we want to invoke change, we need to be honest with what was said and done. They were saying things like, “Go back home, Paki,” or “Put curry on the puck, it will slide better,” or “Where is the red dot on your forehead?” Any time I took a face-off in front of them, or simply skated past them, they banged their hands on the glass and tried to scare and intimate me.

We won 6-4 that night. My parents were so happy on the car ride home, as they thought I played well; however, I was quiet and numb. When I got home, I had tears in my eyes and asked my parents, “Who cares about the game, did you not see what was happening?” They told me that if I wanted to be an elite player and represent our culture, it was something I would need to endure. My dad then told me some stories of the racism he had gone through on the streets and in the workforce. He wanted to shield me from it, but sadly he could not.

It was then that I really started to envision that one day I would use hockey to earn respect, and then turn around and help other South Asian players and their families.

I had the goal of playing professional hockey, but as we all know, the path to get there is extremely complicated. With immigrant parents, no mentors and no internet, navigating the hockey system was very difficult. Some how, some way, I made it through Junior B to Junior A and to Concordia University College in Edmonton. But I started to doubt that college hockey was the right decision to get me to my goal.

After a few games, an ex-NHL coach turned agent named Bill Laforge Sr. came to watch us play. He was gracious enough to take me under his wing and send me on my way to play pro hockey in the United States.

In my seven-year career, I played five seasons with the Tacoma Sabercats in the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL), where I had two stand-out coaches: three years with John Olver and two with Robert Dirk, who I coach with now at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

During this time, I really grew not only as a hockey player, but as a person. I learned the importance of community work and giving back. The city showed me a lot of love in return, which overshadowed any discrimination. I won the WCHL championship with the Sabercats in 1999, played in the WCHL All-Star Game and was voted Most Popular Player by the fans in all five of my seasons.

A few other milestones were getting called up to play in the International Hockey League (IHL) with the Las Vegas Thunder, and the following year, signing a two-way contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (AHL), an affiliate of my favourite team, the Edmonton Oilers.

I hung up my skates at the end of the 2002-03 season and knew I had to fulfil my other goal of paying it forward and giving back.

When my now-16-year-old son started playing Timbits, I got involved in assisting, educating, mentoring and coaching our South Asian youth and their families. A few years later, I delved deeper into women’s hockey when my daughter started playing. I was lucky enough to help take this internationally when a women’s team from Leh Ladakh, India, came to Canada for the first time to participate in WickFest, run by Team Canada icon Hayley Wickenheiser.

In the end, my passion for the game comes back to providing support and guidance to South Asian and other ethnic players, connecting the community, highlighting players and parents, and spreading information.

It was through my work with the South Asian community that I was honoured in 2020 to receive the Willie O’Ree Community Award, becoming the first South Asian to win an NHL award, which really drove me to continue to make an impact in the diversity and inclusion component of the game.

Already, we see a number of NHL teams recognize the contributions of the South Asian community by holding a South Asian Heritage Night. I have had the privilege of being part of the Honour Guard or dropping the puck for the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Change is slow, but where there is a will, there is a way. Together we will help improve hockey culture and grow the game we all love. Just like in my hockey journey from the age of four to when I played my last professional game, perseverance and resilience are important factors.

Any road to success will always be under construction.

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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