Young hockey players were treated to a private Olympic lesson in the game on Sunday morning.
Two gold medal-winning Olympians stopped by the Cominco Arena to share their skills and experiences with the young hockey players during a free skills clinic.
“We did some more technical stuff in terms of stopping, puck handling, a bit of passing, and positioning,” said Catherine Ward, two-time gold medal defenceman for the Women’s National Hockey team in both Sochi and Vancouver. “Then we played some games. We try to have fun. You have to have the fun part.”
Outside of the technical skills needed to play the game, Ward says working at the clinic, and others like it, is her way of giving players the support she received as a kid picking up a hockey stick for the first time.
“I see myself in them,” she said. “When I was young, having role models come, it was so valuable to me. To be able to give that back to the kids, to really be that person for them, is something that I really look forward to.”
Daniele Sauvageau led the Canadian Women’s Hockey team to a gold medal as head coach in Salt Lake City and says she was excited to see so many kids sign up for the skills clinic, especially female players.
“I am amazed to see 8-year-old and 9-year-old girls who are so good at the game at that age,” she said. “Not too long ago, on the women’s national team in the 90s, the players who were playing had started later at age 15 or 20, and slowly but surely, you started to see more female players that have started early. And now, for boys, it is normal to see a girl on the same team.
I never thought I would get a chance to go to the Olympics. I never really got to play hockey way back when because there was no women’s hockey.”
The gold medal winning coach and former RCMP sergeant says fostering a love of hockey, and sports in general, is a good way to keep youth out of trouble.
“It is a good thing if they love hockey, but being a police officer for 29 years, I know that we need something to occupy our kids,” said Sauvageau. “If not, they are going to occupy our time at police services.”
Ward is a first time visitor to the Trail area, and she says she has enjoyed her brief visit.
“I love it here,” she said. “It is beautiful. I have never been down here and is very pretty.”
Sauvageau says the community support surrounding athletics shows why so many high-quality athletes are born and raised in the Silver City.
“I really sense the community values,” she said. “Every person has asked me if I know about Trail’s sport history and what you do here, and for me, I am not surprised to see that. That is probably one of the reasons there are so many great athletes and people that come out of here.”
The event was hosted by Teck Metals Ltd. and included a breakfast with the two hockey veterans, an autograph and photo session and closed out with Ward and Sauvageau dropping the puck for the afternoon Smokies game.