2017 - Cameco Hockey Day in Saskatchewan
Seven-time Stanley Cup champion Bryan Trottier played on some of the world’s biggest hockey stages – but he was raised on one of the smallest.
His first home ice was a frozen creek on the family ranch outside of Val Marie, Sask., so he felt very much at home when he returned to hockey’s heartland Jan. 20-22 to celebrate Cameco Hockey Day in Saskatchewan with this year’s host communities, Shellbrook and Pinehouse.
The result was a record-setting weekend that raised $175,000 for Shellbrook’s arena and generated some much-appreciated development programs for aspiring players, coaches and referees in the remote community of Pinehouse.
“This was a celebration of such a wonderful sport and our gift to the world, so to speak,” said Trottier. “I love it and it’s really enjoyable to be celebrated, tell them some stories and hopefully inspire the next generation of athlete or hockey player or the kid that has a dream and wants to excel.”
The annual event, which is a partnership between Cameco and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA), visits a different community each year with the goal of raising funds for local arenas and growing the game.
“It’s that Saskatchewan community spirit of giving back,” said Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel. “You mix that with the Cameco volunteerism and our goal of making a difference in the communities in which we live and work, and together it’s a potent mix. We’ve had a wonderful weekend.”
While resource industries faces challenges, Gitzel said Cameco will continue to support initiatives such as Hockey Day in Saskatchewan because they inspire Cameco volunteers to get involved and work with local people to accomplish goals.
“We’re not just going to write a cheque and mail it in,” he said. “We’re going to roll up our sleeves.”
In Shellbrook, the community organized a week-long celebration with on-ice activities plus a banquet and cabaret. In addition to Trottier, one of the feature attractions was a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game which saw the Battlefords North Stars beat the Notre Dame Hounds 5-3.
“Throughout this week the theme has been how the rink is the heart of the community and a gathering place,” said Stephanie Gosselin, a member of the Shellbrook organizing committee that exceeded its goal of $100,000. “It’s a place where kids learn more than just hockey; they learn life lessons and skills. We’re really just trying to keep the doors open on this facility and this weekend will help us put a dent in that.”
For Pinehouse, the rewards came in the form of training and development for local coaches, referees and minor hockey players. The SHA delivered certification programs and skills clinics – a rare opportunity for the northern community located 500 kilometres north of Saskatoon. Residents then enjoyed a pair of midget AAA games with girls teams from Prince Albert and Swift Current, and boys teams from Beardy’s and Battlefords.
“The certification is very important because we need to get more volunteers out there for our kids,” said Pinehouse Mayor Mike Natomagan. “And to see this kind of hockey is something else.”
The community also received its first skate sharpener as a legacy of the event. Until now, many youngsters had been making do with dull blades.
“We want to leave an impression in these communities,” concluded Gitzel. “We want to make a difference and we are. I’m really proud of our volunteer spirit and our volunteer team.”