Broadening horizons on and off the ice

By Krista Sinaisky | February 26, 2019

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Jets WASAC Night and Moose Follow Your Dreams Day welcome hundreds of Indigenous youth

Former Philadelphia Flyer right winger Reggie Leach believes that it takes an entire town to mould a person. With the help of Leach and fellow Indigenous alumni Jamie Leach (his son) and Daryl Stanley, the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose were able to be part of this community effort and make a small impact on hundreds of Manitoba youth as part of two special games that celebrated Indigenous culture on Feb. 16 and 17.

As part of the Jets WASAC (Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre) Night and Moose Follow Your Dreams Day, the teams welcomed youth from 22 Indigenous communities for a weekend of hockey highlights that included much more than the chance to take in a professional hockey game.

The festivities started at the Jets gameday skate the morning of Feb. 16, which seemed to make the experience real for a number of youth attending when it finally sunk in what their weekend was all about.

Following the morning skate, youth from Lac Brochet, Oxford House, Pauingassi, and Shamattawa headed to Camp Manitou to lace up with Reggie, Jamie, and Daryl.

“What made my day is just to see the smiles on the kids’ faces because that’s what it’s all about,” said Daryl following the session.

Sixteen-year-old Leesha was able to learn a trick or two from the former NHLers that she will take back to her hockey team in Oxford House.

“They taught us how to skate properly and how to stop, jump, and get up when you fall. It’s actually pretty cool and I’m happy that I got the chance to learn from them,” Leesha said of the experience.

Jamie, who runs a hockey school with his dad Reggie, frequently works with youth and loves seeing the increased confidence and “lightbulb moments” when something clicks with young skaters.

“That’s one reason why we like doing what we do – seeing the players improve and maybe telling them one thing, one aspect about skating or shooting and it clicks,” said Jamie.

Although they enjoy the on-ice coaching, their mentorship off the ice is just as important.

The trio were back at Bell MTS Place Sunday morning to greet an even bigger group of youth, from as many as 22 Indigenous communities, and share their personal stories of how they got into hockey and the struggles they overcame.

“What they got a chance to see is ex NHL players, we’re human too, they can approach us – we can answer questions, we enjoy being out there with the kids and having fun,” said Daryl.

Reggie, who travels the country to work with youth and communities as part of work with an Indigenous alumni group believes events like WASAC Night and Follow Your Dreams Day are important to broaden the horizons of those living in remote communities.

“There are people that care about them besides their parents and their communities – the outside world cares about what they are doing,” said Reggie.

Jamie hopes that by sharing what he, his dad, and Daryl have been able to accomplish, they can be positive examples to youth, and maybe even light a spark for what they want to achieve in the future – whether it’s pursuing hockey, school, or any other passion.

Jamie told the crowd at the meet and greet that he worked hard to get ahead in the game, and that he still works hard in everything he pursues in his post-NHL life.

“It’s all about hope and saying anything can get done. I know it’s a cliché but it’s so true; if you want to do something it takes some hard work and hopefully it starts with something like (this experience),” said Jamie.

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