HOCKEY HEAVEN EH?:

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­[email protected]­t.com

It was a whirl­wind hockey haven last week in Swift Cur­rent as some Cana­dian leg­ends of hockey came to Swift Cur­rent as part of the iconic Sco­tia­bank Hockey Day in Canada. Ac­tiv­i­ties in Swift Cur­rent started with the Mu­sic of Hockey Day con­cert at the Liv­ing Sky Casino Event Cen­tre, Feb. 6. (Main photo): Shau­navon’s own and Cana­dian coun­try mu­sic stars, The Hunter Broth­ers in­volved the crowd in their per­for­mance Feb. 6. Above left: Leg­endary hockey com­men­ta­tor Coach's Cor­ner co-host Don Cherry sits in the stu­dio over­look­ing the ice Top right: Nolan Par­adis gets a high five from Bryan Trot­tier while Marty McSor­ley gives an au­to­graph. See full cov­er­age in­side of the full week it was start­ing on

An out­door rink in Swift Cur­rent bears the name of Shel­don Kennedy in recog­ni­tion of his brav­ery to talk about abuse and his pas­sion­ate ef­forts to pro­mote youth safety.

The an­nounce­ment and un­veil­ing of the rink's new name took place in River­dene Park, Feb. 7.

It hap­pened dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony for the in­au­gu­ral Shel­don Kennedy Youth Out­door Clas­sic, which took place as part of the 2019 Sco­tia­bank Hockey Day in Canada event in the city.

The an­nounce­ment of the rink's re­nam­ing came as a com­plete sur­prise for Kennedy. It was an emo­tional mo­ment for him and he wiped away some tears.

“Well, tears don't go too far down the cheek at this tem­per­a­ture,” he quipped. “This is quite an hon­our, I have to say. I never told my story to be­come pop­u­lar. I just told my story be­cause I wanted to make a dif­fer­ence, and I thank you all for help­ing me make that dif­fer­ence.”

He spoke with the me­dia af­ter the un­veil­ing, and men­tioned that he de­cided to tell his story be­cause he con­tin­ued to hear sto­ries of other peo­ple who also ex­pe­ri­enced abuse.

“When I first told my story it wasn't real pop­u­lar,” he said. “No­body re­ally wanted to talk about the is­sues that Shel­don Kennedy rep­re­sents, and now I think peo­ple are fi­nally real­iz­ing that this is im­por­tant. We need to take a stand and it's re­ally very im­pact­ful on our kids and our com­mu­ni­ties when we're not putting this at the fore­front. So that's re­ally what I think has made me emo­tional with this.”

He felt the con­ver­sa­tion has shifted no­tice­ably since he first started to talk about abuse. At that time there were peo­ple who thought he was giv­ing hockey a bad rep­u­ta­tion, but there is now a re­al­iza­tion that it is im­por­tant to talk about abuse.

“The game has shifted the con­ver­sa­tion around sig­nif­i­cant is­sues that are very im­pact­ful around abuse and ha­rass­ment in the game of hockey, and hockey in gen­eral across this coun­try has al­lowed so­ci­ety to shift that con­ver­sa­tion to we need to take ac­tion and we can’t be hid­ing this any­more,” he said. “It needs to be out in the fore­front.”

The Safe Places – Youth Cer­ti­fied ini­tia­tive is there­fore cre­at­ing a space where chil­dren can feel safe and even talk about per­sonal is­sues that af­fect them, be­cause in many in­stances chil­dren are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing abuse in their own homes.

“So some­times these places are the safe places, and we need to un­der­stand that,” he said. “They may not feel safe at home, but when they come out to com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions that may be the place that they feel the safest, and we need to make sure that we’re in a po­si­tion to re­spond if they dis­close to us some­thing that might be go­ing on in their life.”

Swift Cur­rent Mayor De­nis Per­rault an­nounced the rink's re­nam­ing. He felt it was ap­pro­pri­ate that the un­veil­ing took place dur­ing the 2019 Hockey Day in Canada, which had courage as the theme for the event.

“There’s no­body that I’ve ever met that is more coura­geous than Shel­don Kennedy,” he said af­ter the un­veil­ing. “The work that he has done for youth and the work that he has done to pro­tect those youth across our coun­try and es­pe­cially here in Swift Cur­rent to the Safe Places ini­tia­tive, it was ab­so­lutely fit­ting that we hon­our him for the work that he has done and I’m ab­so­lutely hum­bled that we’re able to do that to­day. He is an in­cred­i­ble man and he is a true am­bas­sador for the safety and well-be­ing of chil­dren across our coun­try.”

He noted that Kennedy has been an in­te­gral fig­ure in the im­ple­men­ta­tion and suc­cess of Safe Places – Youth Cer­ti­fied, the first com­mu­nity driven ini­tia­tive of its kind in Canada. It is de­signed to en­sure youth can par­tic­i­pate in recre­ational and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties in the care of adults who have been ap­pro­pri­ately vet­ted and trained to work with youth. The pro­gram has al­ready cer­ti­fied about 1,600 cer­ti­fied adults in the com­mu­nity.

“It’s been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful,” he said. “We’ve also got com­mu­ni­ties out­side of Swift Cur­rent that are ask­ing to be a part of it. ... I’m grate­ful for Shel­don Kennedy to part­ner with us, and I’m very proud that it con­tin­ues to build and con­tin­ues to grow.”

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

Swift Cur­rent Mayor De­nis Per­rault speaks dur­ing the an­nounce­ment of the rink's new name. A sur­prised and emo­tional Shel­don Kennedy stands be­hind him.

Kelly Schafer, the City of Swift Cur­rent's man­ager of the Safe Places ini­tia­tive, speaks dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony for the in­au­gu­ral Shel­don Kennedy Youth Out­door Clas­sic, Feb. 7.

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