It may have been cold out on the ice, but there was plenty of love and excitement to keep everyone warm at the youth ice hockey camp hosted by Garth Brooks and Teammates for Kids at the Henry Viney Arena in Calgary on September 9. Almost 60 young athletes, ages 9-13, had the incredible opportunity to race down the boards with Calgary Flames players Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg and 2-time Olympic gold medalist Carla MacLeod from Team Canada.
The camp included various hockey drills and ended with a thrilling relay where the first skater passed his or her stick to the next, leaving the final skater with an armful during the race to the finish. Versteeg and Brouwer did the final leg of the relay as the kids cheered them on. Brooks was in Calgary for seven huge shows at the Scotiabank Saddledome. He carved out time on Saturday to visit the camp, cheer the kids on, and offer some uplifting words. “Here’s the thing I want you to remember more than anything that you take from this camp today, this one word right here. That word is love. There it is," he told the kids. "You’ve got to love the sport, you’ve got to love your teammates, you’ve got to love your coaches."
The youths invited to the camp represented HEROS Hockey (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society), which is a volunteer-driven charity that uses the game of hockey to teach life skills and empower Canada’s marginalized youth. All of the children attended the camp at no charge.
Kris Versteeg, a Teammate since 2012, is currently a forward for the Calgary Flames, beginning his 10th season in the NHL. “It means a lot to us ... seeing a foundation like this and being a part of it ... and trying to give back,” said Versteeg.
Troy Brouwer, a Teammate since 2013, is also a forward for the Flames and a 10-year NHL veteran. “I had dreams when I was a kid. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of them, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t have dreams now," he said. "That’s one thing that we also want to portray to the kids, too, is you’ve always got to continue to follow your dreams and if you do get the chance to have your dream come true, make a new one and follow that. You never want to hear any kids say I can’t or I won’t be able to, and that’s why we want to help these kids any way we can."
Carla McLeod added, "It was pretty natural for me to be out here, and what a thrill! Lots of smiles today and that’s what we were looking for.”
Teammates For Kids presents the Good Teammate Award at each youth sports camp they sponsor. The award recognizes the young athletes who best demonstrate the traits of a Total Teammate, including leadership, toughness, unselfishness, and respect for the game and all of its participants. In Calgary, Good Teammate Awards were presented to: Shyanne Jones, age 9; Tyson Saikkonen, age 10; and Sydney Ouellette, age 12.
Teammates will continue to partner with Brooks to hold youth sports camps at every city on his World Tour. Brooks and athletes in each city will volunteer their time to coach kids in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or soccer. This is only the second time during the tour that Teammates has sponsored a hockey camp on the ice; others have been ball hockey camps.