HOCKEY HEAVEN EH?:
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.”
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.