Valu­able lessons

A lot more to sport than win­ning games — It’s about cre­at­ing win­ning at­ti­tudes in young peo­ple

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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