A lot more to sport than winning games — It’s about creating winning attitudes in young people
If youngsters are not leaving the rink after a practice or game with smiles on their faces talking about how much fun they had, we are doing something wrong. That advice comes from one of the legends of hockey.
Three members of the Squirt division of the Cee Bees Minor Hockey Association from Harbour Grace spent two days late last month with one of the best hockey players ever to lace up a pair of skates.
Jordan Baker, Andrew Taylor, and Dylan Whelan spent the time with Bobby Orr during the Chevrolet Safe and Fun Hockey festival held in Corner Brook Aug. 28-29. Jordan Baker is the son of Elizabeth and Rich Baker. Andrew Taylor is the son of Joanne and Doug Taylor and Dylan Whelan is the son of Pam and Dean Whelan.
The young players won the right to take part in the event after entering an online contest sponsored by Chevrolet and Hockey Canada.
The three young Cee Bees travelled across the province with their families to attend the free hockey school and, according to Pamela Whelan, Dylan Whelan’s mom, “ it was well worth the long drive.”
Whelan explained: “ The opportunity arose in the spring to register your child (between the ages of 5 and 8) on-line for this hockey festival, and these three boys were chosen along with 57 other children from across the province to attend.”
Whelan said Doug Taylor (Andrew’s Dad) also participated as a coach for the event. The weekend included two on-ice sessions and several off-ice sessions for parents, coaches and players.
Speaking on behalf of the parents of the three boys, Whelan said, “ the event was an experience they won’t soon forget.”
The Safe and Fun Hockey Festival began with Bobby Orr’s desire to reach thousands of young hockey players and promote lifelong skills and positive attitudes on and off the ice.
According to Orr himself, Whelan said, “ his interest is in the 99 per cent of players who will never be paid to play the game, but will take life long skills and attitudes from their passion for playing hockey.” Orr approached Chevrolet a number of years ago with a plan to promote hockey as a character building opportunity.
Whelan said, “ he is certainly reaching a lot of parents, coaches, players and friends of the game. However, there is more work to be done. He and the team who organized the event want all of us to spread the message that hockey is about a lot more than winning games, it’s about creating winning attitudes in young people.”
Whelan said the weekend began with an office session where the philosophy of Orr and Hockey Canada were clearly laid out for the parents and players attending the event. “It is an attitude that many parents in associations all across this province need to hear and remember as they enter arenas this winter with their children to play the beloved game,” she said. “ Their philosophy is clear. The chances of your child or mine making the big league of hockey are slim. So slim, that we as parents, coaches and associations need to set expectations on ourselves and our members to focus on fun. If a child is not leaving the rink after a practice or game talking about the fun they had, we are doing something wrong.” Whelan said, “in fact, they were adamant that we stop setting high expectations on our children in the rink and be satisfied if they leave with a smile on their face. They also said that if we sit by and watch coaches, parents or associations abuse and mistreat children and change a love of the game into a negative experience, we are damaging the game and what it should stand for.”
When asked about his favourite memories of his younger hockey days, Orr responded they were his minor hockey days. It was not the cup, but the fun he had and the way his coaches made him feel when he was young.
“ That is a very important statement from a legend whose first contract included $1,000, a used car for his father and stucco ceilings for his mother - a far cry from what players are paid today,” Whelan said.
She described the on-ice sessions as “pure fun with skills hidden under games that the kids loved. There was not a puck on the ice until the last five minutes of a two-hour on-ice session. Not one coach yelled or even raised their voice. They demanded respect and responsibility, the two R’s of the weekend by making the players carry their own bags to the dressing room and demanding the traditional values we all love to see in a child. It was amazing to see how our children responded.”
There were also moments for photos and autographs and a lot of grandpas and grandmas were “ thrilled to be in the presence of a very humble man, who represents an amazing part of the game we all love so much,” Whelan said.
“ Number 4, Bobby Orr will remain a very special man in our sons’ hearts for the lessons he has taught them about our game,” Whelan concluded.
From left: Andrew Taylor, Jordan Baker and Dylan Whelan spent two unforgettable days with hockey legend Bobby Orr (second from right) during the Safe and Fun Hockey Festival in Corner Brook.