For 14 young players from the Northwest Territories, the Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp is the start of reigniting one community’s love of hockey.
Hailing from the small community of Fort Good Hope, NWT, the hockey camp participants fundraised for months to be able to make the roughly five hour flight, with multiple connections, to Edmonton before making it to Sylvan Lake.
Freda Kelly, the group’s coordinator, said fundraising efforts began back in November to ensure enough was raised to bring all 14 kids to the camp.
“We had heard about this camp, a lot of good things, and the kids were really eager to come,” Kelly said, adding the long travel time, which included an over night stay in an airport, did not tamper the kids spirits.
“They were very tired, but were up and ready to go the next morning. They were very excited,” she said.
Hockey may be considered Canada’s game, but in the small community of Fort Good Hope, not many have the chance to play the game.
Kelly says the group of kids who play hockey in their home community is very small, but it has been growing.
She attributes the decline to the economy, specifically in her small northern community.
“Hockey is an expensive game, and with the low employment rate in our town, it can be hard to get kids outfitted and on the ice.”
Cost is a big factor in the game, and coming to the camp. Kelly said the group fundraised for around eight months to bring all 14 players and the adult chaperones to the week-long hockey camp.
There were bake sales, bottle drives and many other fundraisers over the course of the eight months to bring the kids from Fort Good Hope to Sylvan Lake.
Kelly said the group of young athletes received a lot of help, and some large donations from within the community.
“I really want to thank my community,” said said. “Without their help these kids never would have had this opportunity. They have learned so much.”
The group, which ranged in ages, did in fact learn a lot. According to Heinrich Drybones, one of the players brought to the camp, he had learned a lot of the basics of the game.
“I’ve learned about stick handling and how to skate better,” he said.
Drybones planes to take what he has learned at the camp back home to show others in the community and maybe teach some how want to learn.
Kelly said one of the youths brought to the camp has already been asked to teach others in the community what he has learned.
“Hockey is slowly coming back to our community, and this will help I think,” Kelly said.
For many of the kids part of this group, this trip to Sylvan Lake could be the only time they are able to make the trip south in their life.
However, Kelly is hopeful they will make another trip sooner rather than later.
“We had a group come down years ago, and the kids are already talking about coming again,” she said.
“We will look into fundraising again and coming back in a couple years.”
While the group enjoyed their time on the ice and learning more about the game, Drybones said his favourite part of the week had nothing to do with hockey.
“I loved the swimming, and eating pizza,” he said.
Kelly wanted to thank the Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp, the folks at the Best Western Plus and the residents of Sylvan Lake.
“Everyone has been so welcoming and kind. We have really enjoyed our time here,” she said.