CHAD JOHNSON COMING HOME TO CALGARY
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CALGARY HOCKEY MAGAZINE
CHAD JOHNSON: Goaltender’s Travels Bring Him Home to Calgary
Message from the Publisher of the Calgary Hockey Magazine
Arena Addresses & Locator Map
FLAMES FOUNDATION: EvenStrength Program
Find Strength in Supporting Each Other
BERNIE BAJNOK: Hitmen’s Educational Advisor Recognized for Outstanding Commitment
KEVIN WARRINER: The Voice of the University of Calgary Dinos
HEROES FOR HER: Female Hockey Legends Provide Mentorship for Young Girls in Minor Hockey
RON MACLEAN: Discusses Hockey Night in Canada, Hockeyville & Hometown Hockey
HAYLEY WICKENHEISER: Leaves a Legacy Beyond Medals
SPOTLIGHT ON AN OFFICIAL: Cassandra Gregory
Early morning assist.
ÂŠ Tim Hortons, 2012
The Publisher Welcome to our final edition of the Calgary Hockey Magazine for the 2016-2017 season. This is a goalie-friendly issue. It was no coordinated affair, but we received the ad copy from the Calgary Flames the very day we selected our cover photo. So we have Chad Johnson on our front cover and Brian Elliott gracing our back cover. It just turned out that way, and the Calgaryborn Johnson is featured within, a terrific interview with our senior writer Jeremy Freeborn.
President and Publisher // Rob Suggitt
Also inside we have a feature interview with Hockey Night in Canada host (great to have him back), Hometown Hockey host, and the better half of Coach’s Corner (sorry Don), Ron MacLean. We met up with MacLean at one of his Hometown Hockey stops, and we chatted about his Hockey Night in Canada career. And yes, we even asked him a few questions about Don Cherry and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Jeremy Freeborn // Rob Suggitt // Shannon Cleary
Speaking of hockey broadcasters, we have a feature on the voice of the University of Calgary Dinos: Kevin Warriner. Warriner began his hockey broadcasting career nearly two decades ago, while participating in the broadcasting program at Mount Royal College. After graduating from Mount Royal College, Warriner continued his education, graduating with a communications degree from the University of Calgary, and the rest, as they say, is history. We are pleased to introduce a new writer/contributor to the Calgary Hockey Magazine – Shannon Cleary. Shannon is an accomplished freelance writer, a mom of three daughters, and a rookie hockey parent. Shannon’s contributions this issue include a terrific article on Hayley Wickenheiser’s “Wickfest,” an event which celebrates hockey and facilitates personal development for young female hockey players. And along the way, Shannon met up with another multiple-gold medal winning female hockey player, Meaghan Mikkelson, for a Q & A. In wrapping up this issue, we have a terrific article on the “Even Strength” program, an initiative which began in 1998 to help alleviate the costs of extracurricular activities for families facing financial challenges. It’s a joint initiative by the Calgary Flames Hockey Club, Hockey Calgary, and KidSport. In 2013, Canadian Pacific Railway came on board with their “Goals for Kids” program, and have raised nearly $200,000 the past three seasons for this important cause. That’s all for this issue. With the hockey season winding down, we would like to wish all the participants a great offseason, and look forward to seeing everyone back on the ice in a few short months!
Credits Art Director // Christine Kucher Graphic Designers Cailey Buxton // Katelyn Suggitt Contributing Writers
Copy Editing Shari Narine Photography Credits Avonlea Photography Ben Matchett Bruce Kluckhohn - Minnesota Wild Brad Watson - Calgary Flames Hockey Club Calgary Hitmen Candice Ward - Calgary Hitmen Dave Holland Gerry Thomas - Calgary Flames Hockey Club Sportsnet / Rogers Media Sales Associates Kerri Anderson // Lynn Schuster Administration Amber Grmek The Hockey Magazine is a product of Playhouse Publications Ltd. - an affiliate of Suggitt Ltd. President & CEO // Tom Suggitt President & CFO // Rob Suggitt 10177 - 105 Street, Edmonton AB T5J 1E2 Ph: 780.423.5834 // Fax: 780.413.6185 Playhouse Publications Ltd. also publishes the Citadel Theatre Playbill, Edmonton Opera Playbill, Arden Theatre Playbill and the Calgary Opera Program. All Rights Reserved. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expresses within do not nessesarily represent the opnions of the publisher or Hockey Edmonton. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher - www.suggitt.com
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Calgary Hockey Magazine Calgary Hockey Magazine | 5
GOALTENDERâ€™S TRAVELS BRING HIM HOME TO CALGARY
6 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
[ BY JEREMY FREEBORN ] ACTION PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BRAD WATSON HEAD SHOT PROVIDED BY GERRY THOMAS CALGARY FLAMES HOCKEY CLUB
eading into the 2016-17 National Hockey League regular season, the Calgary Flames had two new goaltenders in Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott. Johnson, who was raised in Calgary, signed as a free agent with the Flames from the Buffalo Sabres. Elliott was acquired via a trade with the St. Louis Blues.
An analysis of the career statistics of Elliott and Johnson would indicate that Elliott would have been the new number one goaltender in Calgary. During the last five years with the Blues, Elliott’s statistics were excellent. He twice led the NHL in save percentage, including .930 in 201516. He also had a goals against average under two on two separate occasions with the Blues, including a mark of 1.56 which led the NHL in 2011-12. However, after Elliott’s slow start with the Flames this season, head coach Glen Gulutzan did not hesitate to give the number one duties to Johnson, who has flourished in the role. “He’s been really good,” said Gulutzan, following a Flames practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 12. “Chad has been really steady and a real calming influence right through the year for us.” The night before the Flames practice, Johnson sparkled as he made two saves off of Mikkel Boedker of the San Jose Sharks. The first save came on a penalty shot and the second save came off a second breakaway in the final seconds of the third period to preserve a 3-2 Flames win. In looking back at the 2016-17 Flames regular season, that win over the Sharks might have been considered a major turning point as it came against the reigning Western Conference champions, and one of the best teams in the Pacific Division. Johnson was born in Saskatoon, Sask., but moved to Calgary at only 10 months of age. He grew up in the southeast community of Deer Ridge and played for the Bow Valley Flames Minor Hockey Association all the way up to midget when he played for the Calgary Buffaloes in 200203. After that Johnson played two seasons with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League before playing four seasons with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Johnson has good memories of playing in minor hockey tournaments while growing up in Calgary. “I really enjoyed playing in the Whitemud tournament in Edmonton,” he said. “I also played in a tournament in Springbank, and the annual Esso Minor Hockey Week, which was fun and special. When I played pee wee, our team went over to Europe and represented Canada in a big international tournament in Zell am See, Austria. Then at the midget level, I got to play at the Mac’s Midget Tournament. That experience was a lot of fun.”
Calgary Hockey Magazine | 7
It was an amazing experience, [getting drafted]. To think about the journey of where I was to get to that point. It was a special moment for myself. Looking back from then to now, so much has gone on in my life in order to make the NHL.
Johnson was a skater and goaltender up until pee wee. He admits his father encouraged him to try different positions. Johnson committed to goaltending in his second year of pee wee. While growing up, Johnson idolized two-time Vezina Trophy winner and 1999 Stanley Cup champion Ed Belfour. He watched him regularly while Belfour played with the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars. “He was very intense and underrated,” said Johnson. “He was not one of the goalies that got all of the attention.” Johnson had fond memories playing minor hockey in Calgary, but it was his time in the AJHL where his hockey career started to flourish. In his second season in Brooks in 2004-05, he posted a record of 25-16-2 with a 2.61 goals against average and a franchise single season record in save percentage at .923. With Johnson in net, the Bandits made the AJHL playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Johnson was also named to the AJHL South Division First All-Star Team.
8 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
Earlier this season, on Jan. 20, 2017, Johnson received his highest honour with the Bandits. He was the first inductee of the Bandits Wall of Fame. From 2005-2009, Johnson travelled north to play American collegiate hockey. For four years he was with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks. Johnson’s best season in Alaska was his final season of 2008-09. Despite having a losing record of 14-16-5, he had six shutouts that season and led the NCAA in goals against average (1.66) and save percentage (.940). Johnson won the 2009 Central Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year Award. He joins a list of notable names who won the award and went on to have strong NHL careers. The list includes Mike Liut (1977), Ken Morrow (1979), Brian Savage (1993), Brendan Morrison (1996 and 1997), Shawn Horcoff (2000), Ryan Miller (2001 and 2002), Chris Kunitz (2003) and Torey Krug (2012). In 2006, while with the Nanooks, Johnson was drafted in the fifth round, 125th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Entry Draft.
Even though Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, he never played for them as he was traded to the New York Rangers three months after finishing his time with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. From 2009 to 2012, Johnson played a combined total of six games with the Rangers, spending the majority of his time with the Hartford Wolf Pack and Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. While with the Rangers organization, Johnson impressed the Hockey Canada management. Despite his lack of NHL experience at the time, Johnson was chosen to represent Canada at the 2010 World Hockey Championship in Cologne, Germany. Canada lost 5-2 to Russia in the quarterfinals. “Putting your maple leaf on and representing your country, there is no better honour,” said Johnson. “I felt so much pride just being part of that team. My uncle, who passed away a year later, and dad came to the tournament. It was such a great experience.” On July 1, 2012, Johnson signed with the Phoenix Coyotes, and once again spent most of his time in the AHL, this time with the Portland Pirates. Johnson then signed with the Boston Bruins on July 5, 2013, where he backed up Tuukka Rask. The following season, in 2014-15, he signed with the New York Islanders and backed up Jaroslav Halak. Even though Johnson did not get to see much NHL playing time in the first few years of his professional career, he admits he learned a lot from NHL all-star goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers and Rask in Boston. “Henrik has great work ethic. He is so consistent. Whether or not he played well or did not play well, he came to practice and competed really well. That aspect was an eye opener for me. I always worked hard, but I saw another level of competitiveness in him. Henrik also embraced the media attention in New York,” said Johnson. “With Tuukka, he has so much skill. He probably is the most skilled goaltender I have played with. He handles the pressure well day in and day out, and is strong technically. He is so relaxed and confident. It was really good for me to be part of these two organizations.” At the end of the 2014-15 NHL season, Johnson was traded from the New York Islanders to Buffalo with a third round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft for goaltender Michael Neuvirth. The following season in 2015-16, Johnson was expected to backup Robin Lehner in Buffalo. However, his career changed for the best in the Sabres’ regular season opener when Lehner suffered a high ankle sprain and would be out three months. All of a sudden this was Johnson’s team. In 45 games with the Sabres in 2015-16, Johnson put up strong numbers. He had a record of 22-16-4 with a goals against average of 2.36 and a save percentage of .920. His outstanding play with Buffalo caught the eyes of Flames management, who signed Johnson to a contract on July 1, 2016. The Flames may have been Johnson’s sixth NHL team since 2012, but he was delighted to come home.
If you want something, just go for it. Don’t let bad experiences or a bad year get in your way or distract you from earning what you want to accomplish. Everything was not easy for myself. There were times that the dream looked foggy. My best advice is don’t have any regrets, and try and get better every day.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Johnson. “To think about the journey of where I was to get to that point. It was a special moment for myself. Looking back from then to now, so much has gone on in my life in order to make the NHL.”
“It was a dream come true,” said Johnson with a big smile on his face. “Being a hometown Calgarian, watching the Flames and always supporting them. For me the Calgary Flames were the NHL. It was a very personal experience to sign here. I have friends and family in Calgary. To be part of the Flames is very humbling and a great opportunity.” If there was one thing Johnson would like hockey fans to know about him is that he has a twin brother named Curtis, who currently owns a gymnasium in Lloydminster.
“I am best friends with him,” said Chad Johnson. “He played hockey too and I owe a lot to him. We had that dream together. To have someone push me, to have fun with, and help develop my skills by playing non-stop street hockey with (was valuable) and I owe a lot to him.” For minor hockey goaltenders today, Johnson has the following message. “If you want something, just go for it. Don’t let bad experiences or a bad year get in your way or distract you from earning what you want to accomplish. Everything was not easy for myself. There were times that the dream looked foggy. My best advice is don’t have any regrets, and try and get better every day.” Johnson’s lifelong goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and there is no team that he would like to win the Stanley Cup with more than the Calgary Flames!
Calgary Hockey Magazine | 9
EVENSTRENGTH Program provides financial aid
to give kids the opportunity to
play hockey By Jeremy Freeborn There is no question that enrolling your children into minor hockey in Calgary can be expensive. When you add up the costs of registration, travel and equipment, it is not surprising that many families are increasingly reluctant to encourage their children to participate in hockey. When you factor in the current problematic state of the Alberta economy, expensive extracurricular activities might be low on the list for many. However, there is one significant program in Calgary that the Calgary Flames Foundation, Hockey Calgary, KidSport Calgary and Canadian Pacific Railway Limited want to make the Calgary public more aware of. The aforementioned organizations are the current partners for the Calgary Flames EvenStrength Program. The goal of the program, which has been in existence since 1998, is to help alleviate the cost for families who are facing financial challenges, and are very interested in having their children participate in minor hockey. As of the 2016-17 Hockey Calgary season, the EvenStrength Program has distributed $2,061,404.00 to Calgary minor hockey players since 1998. Over the last three years, families were able to receive financial assistance up to $700, which is up from a maximum amount of $600 from the 2013-14 minor hockey season. The number of recipients of the EvenStrength Program rose from 328 to 368 in 2016-17. The amount of funding provided also increased from $222,342.50 to $248,264.00. Readers might be wondering who some of the players are who have participated in the EvenStrength Program in the past. Due to confidentiality rules, the names are not released to the public. “We don’t publicize the names,” says Hockey Calgary Executive Director Kevin Kobelka. The initiative to get as many Calgary children to play hockey as possible, regardless of their socioeconomic background or status, started almost two decades ago. “Hockey Calgary (at the time known as the Calgary Minor Hockey Association) and the Calgary Flames realized there were kids that did not have the opportunity to play,” says Kobelka. “We
10 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
partnered together with the Flames Foundation along with KidSport, to create a fund in order to get those kids in the game. These are kids who wouldn’t have a chance, and are now given an opportunity to play Canada’s national sport. They get the opportunity to get out there, have fun, learn and have the same opportunity of those who have the financial wherewithal.” Calgary Flames Foundation Executive Director Candice Goudie stresses the significance the program has from a Flames perspective. “The EvenStrength Program is super important. We have a lot of programs that we fund and this is right in the heart of what we do. This is about making sure that everyone can play hockey. We really want to make sure we are doing our part to provide access to the sport.” KidSport Calgary Executive Director Kevin Webster is also extremely pleased that their organization is part of such a positive initiative. “The partnership is amazing! To be able to team up with Hockey Calgary and the Calgary Flames Foundation with the same goal of making sure that the barrier of costs will not keep low income families from playing the great Canadian sport of hockey. Giving kids, who are participating in Hockey Calgary programs, access to the funds they need to get over any of the financial hurdles is exactly what KidSport is all about. Partnerships like this are something we try to build every day in making sport more accessible to kids in our community.” In 2013, Canadian Pacific Railway Limited joined KidSport Calgary, Hockey Calgary and the Calgary Flames Foundation. CP Media Relations Advisor Salem Woodrow says the program is extremely worthwhile. “Calgary is home to CP’s head office and approximately 2000 employees. Giving back to the communities where CP operates is a priority. Our partnership with KidSport Calgary and the Flames EvenStrength program allows more children to participate in sports and improves the overall heart health of Calgary kids—one of the tenets of our CP Has Heart community
investment program. Throughout the regular season, CP donates $250 every time the Flames score a goal. The CP Goals for Kids program is in the fourth season. We raised $52,000 in 2013-14, $78, 250 in 2014-15 and $57, 750 in 2015-16.” Kobelka is very pleased with the co-operation Hockey Calgary has received from KidSport Calgary, Canadian Pacific and the Calgary Flames Foundation. “All of our partners are great. We are all doing the right thing with the goal of getting more kids to play the game. As everyone has heard, hockey player membership has declined across the country. We have been very fortunate in Calgary that we have growth. We have been able to stay growing and keep kids in the game. This is all because of great partners like the Flames, CP and KidSport. We are not seeing the numbers decline like other parts of the country.” In order to qualify for the Flames EvenStrength Program, families need to meet particular guidelines laid out from KidSport. One of the major guidelines is to be under or at the minimal financial standards. Families are also required to fill out a detailed application form. Kobelka says the public feedback to date has been very positive. “We get great stories and every year we get thank you letters back from members. They say how great it was to see their kids play and that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. It is all about seeing the smiling faces. People who do get the funding are really appreciative of it and are happy that they can get their kids into something that keeps them busy, active and off the streets.” “We tell them it is private. We don’t publicize or show their names to anybody. It is between you, your minor hockey association and KidSport. If you feel you need the financing to allow your kids to play, please put your name in and please apply.”
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www.tuckerhockey.com 403 - 998 - 5035 Calgary Hockey Magazine | 11
DUMBA BROTHERS find strength in
Supporting Each other [ BY JEREMY FREEBORN ] Photos of Mathew Dumba Provided by Bruce Kluckhohn / Minnesota Wild Photos of Kyle Dumba Provided by Candice Ward / Calgary Hitmen
hen the Minnesota Wild first entered the National Hockey League in 2000-01, they were recognized as a defence-first team that took pride in keeping the puck out of the net. The team was not afraid to institute the neutral zone trap, and with Jacques Lemaire as head coach for the first decade of their existence, the Wild were known for their patient and boring style of play, but at the end of the day, their effectiveness. Over the last few years the Wild have tried to become a more offensive bunch, but it is sometimes difficult to move completely away from a particular identity. A major reason why the Wild are Stanley Cup contenders this season is because they seem to have depth at every position—including defence. Calgary-raised Mathew Dumba is among the top four Wild defenceman at the moment. When it comes to size -- at 6’0” and 190 pounds --Dumba may not be the most intimidating NHL blueliner, but he is one of the most complete defenceman in the NHL today. In his first 50 games this season, Dumba had a respectable seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. He was also a +21 with 41 penalty minutes, 59 hits, 42 blocked shots and 86 shots on goal. Dumba’s +21 was the ninth best in the NHL. Dumba is known for the power in his bodychecks. On YouTube, you can see Dumba delivering huge checks to superstar Patrick Kane, former Edmonton Oiler Lauri Korpikoski and a high number of powerful bodychecks when he played for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. However, it is not just Dumba’s physical presence that deserves praise. In the Wild’s game in Vancouver on Feb. 4, he showcased great skating and stickhandling ability on one particular play. With the game tied 1-1 late in the first period, Dumba received a pass in the neutral zone, stickhandled the puck along the side boards, skated in behind the Vancouver net, and passed the puck to teammate Jason Zucker, which led to a goal by Mikael Granlund.
12 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
I watch all of [ Kyle’s ] games. It’s nice to see and hopefully he can go further. He’s got great work ethic and has never been one to follow me. He has created his own path... He beats to his own drum and is very determined. I love him lots.
- Mathew Dumba on brother Kyle
Mathew and Kyle both played for the Crowchild Blackhawks up until pee wee, before playing for the Calgary Bronks Bantam AAA team of the Northwest Calgary Athletic Association and the Edge School. In addition to the Bronks, Kyle Dumba also played one season in Bantam AAA with the Calgary Flames. Mathew won numerous awards playing minor hockey in Calgary. In 2009 he took both the most valuable player award and the award for the top defenceman for the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League. The Dumba brothers were fortunate to attend the Edge School. Kyle discusses the significance the school had on his hockey career. “There’s not enough good things to say about them. It really combines the best of both worlds of school and hockey, and there is nothing more you can ask for as a student athlete.” While at Edge School, Kyle was the Canadian Sport School Hockey League top goaltender for the 2014-15 season.
Calgary Hockey Magazine | 13
“It was a big moment,” he said. “It was a big stepping stone in the process moving forward and moving into the WHL. It was like a team award. We had a really good team that year and they helped me a lot in that journey. The award was very meaningful to me.”
“I was a huge Ducks fan. My favourite quote from him was ‘People always antagonize me for the puck hitting me but there is something to say about the pucks always hitting me.’ There is something about the way he played the game and his style that I really enjoyed.”
Both Dumba brothers made the smooth transition to the WHL after playing for the Edge Prep program. Mathew was drafted in the first round, fourth overall, by the Red Deer Rebels in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
Mathew meanwhile idolized a variety of players while growing up in Calgary.
While with the Rebels, Mathew was awarded the 2011 Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy, which is presented to the WHL Rookie of the Year. He then played in the 2012 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, B.C. Kyle was drafted in the fourth round, 68th overall, by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Mathew has high praise for his brother Kyle and keeps close tabs on his progress with the Hitmen. “I watch all of his games. It’s nice to see and hopefully he can go further,” said Mathew. “He’s got great work ethic and has never been one to follow me. He has created his own path. Being a goaltender, he is different from me. He beats to his own drum and is very determined. I love him lots.” Kyle meanwhile has learned a lot from Mathew. “We talk all the time,” Kyle said. “We talk about simple things we have to go through on the ice and mental challenges. He has gone through most of the things I have. It is good. I can just sit down and talk to him. We share a lot of our experiences and it is really easy to learn things from him.” While growing up, Kyle idolized former Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
It was awesome. Just being from such a close family, I was so happy for [ MATHEW ]. He is a great person and a great brother. He takes pride in what he does and he always works hard. That is what sets him apart from a lot of people.
14 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
- KYLE Dumba on brother MATHEW
“Living in Calgary and watching the Flames, I liked Jarome Iginla. I also liked a collection of different defencemen like Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens.” Mathew discusses why he enjoyed the position of defence the best. “I liked to skate. I liked going back for pucks and having to make a quick decision with the puck.” The Dumba brothers have great memories from June 22, 2012. This was the day the Minnesota Wild selected Mathew, with their first round pick, seventh overall, in the NHL Entry Draft. “It was a very emotional day for my family,” Mathew said. “It was awesome to experience that with them and was a great night for all of us.” “It was awesome,” Kyle said. “Just being from such a close family, I was so happy for him. He is a great person and a great brother. He takes pride in what he does and he always works hard. That is what sets him apart from a lot of people.” Looking back at his four seasons with the Minnesota Wild, it has been the Stanley Cup playoff games that have been the most memorable for Mathew. He has played in 16 playoff games over the last two seasons and has two goals and four assists for six points.
On the international stage, Mathew has represented Canada at the 2012 World Under-18 Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic (where he was team captain and won a bronze medal), the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship in Malmo, Sweden (where he was assistant captain) and the 2016 World Hockey Championship in Moscow, Russia (where Canada won the gold medal). From a statistical standpoint, Mathew’s best international event was in the Czech Republic, where he led the 2012 World Under-18 tournament in scoring with 12 points and was named the top defenceman. However, winning the gold medal last year in Russia at the 2016 World Hockey Championship was a special moment as well. “That was awesome,” Mathew said. “I didn’t really know what to expect going over to Russia, but it was a trip of a lifetime and it was great that we won gold.” At this stage of their hockey careers, the Dumba brothers have two different goals. For Kyle, it is to work hard with Hitmen goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera, who is helping him with some adjustments in order to become a better goaltender. He feels his strength on the ice is his communication skills and feels his teammates appreciate how vocal he is. Kyle says he wants the scouts to know that he puts the team first and he works very hard. For Mathew, his goal is to be an elite NHL defenceman and to win a Stanley Cup. The Wild have not won the cup in Minnesota since joining the NHL in 2000 and the old Minnesota North Stars never won a Stanley Cup when they were in the NHL from 1967 to 1993.
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Calgary Hockey Magazine | 15
Advisor Recognized for Outstanding Commitment By Jeremy Freeborn
ernie Bajnok is the 2016 winner of the J.R. “Bud” McCaig Award. Presented on an annual basis by the Calgary Flames organization, the J.R. “Bud” McCaig Award, named after the former Calgary
Flames owner J.R. “Bud” McCaig, who passed away at his vacation home in Barbados in 2005, recognizes the employee who exemplifies the virtues of respect, compassion and courtesy. Bajnok currently works for the Calgary Hitmen organization as their education advisor and billet co-ordinator. A former high school principal in Calgary, Bajnok had significant experience working with Calgary youth on an educational level prior to joining the Hitmen 17 years ago. Bajnok works tirelessly with the Hitmen players, ensuring that they continue to give attention to their education, even though the sport of hockey is their primary focus many times throughout the season. It is not uncommon for Bajnok to be assisting Hitmen players with school work very early in the morning or late in the evening. Bajnok started his time with the Hitmen in 2000-01 by helping the team find an educational advisor. He then assisted the team more in 2001-02 and acted as the Hitmen educational advisor for the 2002-03 season. Bajnok retired as a principal of 17 years in 2003, and became the Hitmen’s educational advisor for the next three full seasons. In August 2006, Bajnok’s role with the Hitmen increased significantly when he was named to assist then-general mana ger Kelly Kisio. Bajnok held that role for the next five seasons before he made the decision to step back from the enormous number of duties (which also included coordinating scouts’ activities, helping purchase equipment, hotel bills, helping team stay within the budget). He decided to remain with the Hitmen as their educational advisor and billet co-ordinator. Bajnok enjoys working with the players. “The players of the team are young, full of energy and in the process of growing up,” he said in an exclusive interview for Hockey Calgary Magazine. “I love having a little bit of influence. It is fun and invigorating.” Bajnok is highly respected by members of the organization. “Bernie has been an integral part of our player development and our team’s academic success for 15 seasons,” said Mike Moore, the Hitmen’s general manager and vice president of business operations. “His passion for scholastic excellence is evident in his constant communication between the players, management, coaching staff, billets and parents. The work he does behind the scenes to co-ordinate a comfortable home away from home for our players as billet co-ordinator is invaluable.”
16 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
Headshot Provided by Candice Ward / Calgary Hitmen Other Photos Provided by the Calgary Hitmen
“Bernie is super crucial to keeping us school guys on track. Whether we’re in university or high school, he’s always on our backs making sure we get our homework done and organizing study sessions on the road,” said left winger Beck Malenstyn. Prior to working in the Calgary Catholic school system, Bajnok earned his physical education degree with the University of Calgary and then his education degree at the University of Alberta. He returned to Calgary to become a teacher, and was given a year sabbatical to work on his master degree, which he achieved in a year and a half. Bajnok says his time as principal at Bishop Carroll High School was instrumental in his role as Hitmen education advisor. The Calgary high school has a self-directed learning approach and gives the students freedom to work at their own pace.
players the required academic guidance to be successful. Bajnok, however, deflects the praise. “That was a great achievement,” he said. “It was an achievement by the players. You have to remember who does the work. When you do the nagging, someone has to perform. The team has to take credit too in supporting what I am trying to promote.” Bajnok has seen a shift in focus among the players since he joined the Hitmen. Many players have come to realize they may not make the National Hockey League and are playing for scholarships that are made available to them by the WHL. “Players today are saying, ‘I am going to maximize my opportunities. I am going to do better in high school so I am going to open more doors.’ There has been a change in my tenure since I have been doing this and it’s great for the kids,” he said. “I learned to understand curriculum in all subject areas,” he said. “It helped me become a better educator and a better administrator because you knew what the kids were trying to achieve. Knowing what the kids had to go through in each subject, I was able to help them out a little bit and motivate them. I was also able to search back to a lot of teachers I knew and they have been able to help out a lot of Hitmen along the way.” In 2013-14, the Calgary Hitmen were recognized as the Western Hockey League Scholastic Team of the Year. Even though the award was a reflection of the intellectual excellence of the Hitmen players as a whole, one cannot ignore Bajnok’s professional approach in giving the
Bajnok administers the scholarships for the Hitmen. For every year a player skates for the Hitmen, he receives a year of scholarship to a post-secondary institution of his choice. Another part of Bajnok’s role as education advisor is to be in communication with the players’ parents. The majority of the players are not raised in Calgary, so Bajnok is in constant contact with the parents and gives them a regular academic progress report. He also speaks regularly with teachers, tracks players’ attendance at school, and gives players guidance and assistance if they are struggling in a subject. For post-secondary students, the Calgary Hitmen now have a relationship with St. Mary’s University in south Calgary. Players can develop their own schedule that works around the hockey season, and take classes at either St. Mary’s University or the Scotiabank Saddledome. At the high school level, the Hitmen have recently formed a relationship with Edge School, where seven players attend. In 2015, Bajnok was honoured to be asked by Hockey Canada to be their education consultant for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Hockey Championship in Lucerne and Zug, Switzerland. Team Canada won a bronze medal in the tournament. Outside of hockey, one of Bajnok’s greatest memories in sports was coaching his son Spencer in baseball at the 2001 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Team Canada was represented by Calgary West, and it is the only team from Calgary to ever play at the Little League World Series. “I don’t know who was enjoying it more, the kids or the coaches,” Bajnok said. “It was a real delight. The stars simply aligned at the 2001 Canadian Championships in Vancouver that summer. It was a highlight.” Today Bajnok can often be found at the Glencoe Club. In the winter, he curls and in the summer, he is a marshal for golf events. He believes it is important to stay in shape, and continues to enjoy sharing his knowledge with others. The Hitmen are extremely lucky to have Bajnok as their educational advisor and billet co-ordinator.
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ARENA ADDRESSES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
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18 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
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Calgary Hockey Magazine | 19
20 | Calgary Hockey Magazine
Discusses Hockey Night in Canada, Hockeyville Hometown Hockey
By Rob Suggitt // Photos Provided by Sportsnet & Rogers Media
I was sitting at the desk of Hockey Night in Canada alone before the Leafs game one Saturday night, and in comes this kid. He looked eighteen years old, and I’ve never heard of him. (By the end of segment), he had tears in his eyes. I thought ‘Oh boy, this is going to be fun.’ -Don Cherry on his first episode of Coach’s Corner with Ron MacLean
hat was 30 years ago. MacLean was 26 years old at the time, and Don Cherry was 52. As for MacLean’s tears, they came later, on set and during the broadcast. No, Cherry did not make Ron MacLean cry. The HNIC producer at the time, Doug Sellars, gave MacLean some advice before he went on air, telling him that his eyes tended to wander, so fixated on this advice, MacLean tried not to blink during the episode. By the end of the segment, a tear rolled down MacLean’s cheek, and he could read Don’s eyes. “Good God, is this kid crying?” To be in this business nearly 30 years (and essentially with the same employer), a person has to have loyalty and thick skin. MacLean has both, and learned a bit about both early in life. One moment sticks out, as he remembers a time when his mother stood up for herself at work, and to make her point, she quit her job. The temporary satisfaction and release of quitting her job soon changed when the reality that while she made her point, she was out of work. Interestingly and perhaps coincidentally, Ron MacLean got his job on Coach’s Corner due to a similar outburst of employee frustration. It was March 14, 1987, and Dave Hodge, who carried the dual roles of being host of HNIC and host of Coach’s Corner, was calling the semi-final of the Brier. The game went to extra ends, but in CBC’s infinite wisdom, they went with regularly scheduled events, so fans watching the Brier got an episode of Star Trek instead. Later that night, Hodge (still steaming) was hosting HNIC, and with the game headed to overtime, the network decided to leave the game and go to the news which was scheduled to start at 11 p.m. Off air, Hodge tried to plead his case, but to no avail. So first, the Brier, then an exciting NHL game abandoned in overtime, leaving millions of fans in the lurch. At 10:59 p.m., Hodge had to explain this to viewers, and here’s what he said. “Now, Montreal and the Philadelphia Flyers are currently playing overtime, and (pause), are we able to go there or not? (Someone speaks in his earpiece.) We are not able to go there. That’s the way things go today in sports, and this network. The Flyers and Canadiens have us in suspense, and we’ll remain that way until we can find out somehow who won this game... or who’s responsible for the way we do things here.
(And Don Cherry and Gary Bettman too!)
Good night for Hockey Night in Canada.” He flipped his pencil in the air, and walked off. For good. MacLean has been through a variety of changes and bosses over the years, and has certainly dealt with frustrations or many unpopular decisions along the way, but he has stuck it out. He has remained loyal to the network, and it would be fair to ask if the network has reciprocated the same level of loyalty. But more on that later. Two apparent adversaries have remained over MacLean’s many years as host of HNIC. Don Cherry appears as one who he shares an acrimonious relationship, but people should really know that despite their on-air spats or disagreements, the two remain close. They usually have a few “pops” after the show when they’re travelling on the road together – in either one of their hotel rooms after the game. (A trash can with ice to keep the beers cold.) It’s interesting to note that on Twitter, Don Cherry has nearly a million followers, but follows just one person. That’s Ron MacLean.
No similar harmony exists with MacLean’s other longtime adversary Gary Bettman. Their interviews often appear tense, confrontational, and contentious, with Bettman coming away looking uneasy and defensive under the interrogative and relent of MacLean’s queries, all which make for good viewing. MacLean wrote in his book “Cornered” that his Mom did not like watching his segments with Gary Bettman, commenting ‘Either turn it down or I’ll just go down to the bedroom. I’m not going to watch. I can’t watch.’ As MacLean explained in his book, “Mom was scared that Gary could have me removed from the job – not fired from HNIC, but from being the host. Dad would try to reassure her ‘I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think he can do that, because Ronnie’s not working for Gary Bettman, he’s working for CBC. And Gary Bettman does not run the CBC.’” On June 2, 2010, MacLean and Bettman had a memorable segment with MacLean pushing Bettman hard on franchise values and stability. You know Bettman is getting defensive and feeling the heat when he says “Ron, Ron, Ron,” and deflects, “we’ve had a great season, hockey has been terrific, these playoffs are great, we’re watching a wonderful game, and you want to tick off franchise after franchise. What inside of you compels you to want to go in that direction?”
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The interview finished up, but it was clear MacLean struck a nerve without really getting his questions answered. (And you can be sure that MacLean and Bettman didn’t go for a few “pops” afterwards.)
which can ground the airplanes, so Bob has to leave on Thursday to be sure he’s there for a Saturday night assignment. Knock on wood – (he’s never missed a game), but he’s flirting with disaster.
MacLean was confronted about the Bettman interview the very next day by Scott Moore, the executive director of CBC Sports, to say they needed to become better partners with our corporate sponsors and the sports leagues. Moore stated that “if you continue to badger our partners this way, we are all going to be out of a job in four years.”
We did the show in Grand Falls-Windsor Newfoundland. It was a Sunday morning flight to Halifax, then to St. John’s, then to Gander, and a 90 minute drive. We did it early enough in the year so we wouldn’t have to battle old man winter.
Fast forward four years (Nov, 2013), and Rogers strikes a 12year $5.2 billion deal with the NHL for national broadcast rights in Canada, which includes the Hockey Night in Canada property. That’s a lot of money. A few months later, on March 10, 2014, George Stroumboulopoulos is brought in to replace Ron MacLean as the main host of Hockey Night in Canada. MacLean keeps his role on Coach’s Corner and host of Hockey Day in Canada, but the message is clear. MacLean is pushed aside, and Rogers thinks the younger hipper host (“Strombo” is 12 years MacLean’s junior) will help attract a younger viewership. To some, the foreshadowing was prescient when he showed his dissent with the league commissioner. When asked about this by the Globe & Mail in October 2014, MacLean had this to say. “Maybe that hurt me but I would gladly fall on my sword for that principle. But I don’t know that it had anything to do with [a reduced role]. It could have.” Meanwhile, Strombo (as he’s called) struggled to connect with hockey viewers the way only Ron MacLean could, and with suffered ratings, Sportsnet announced on June 27, 2016 that Stroumboulopoulos was let go from Rogers, and that Ron MacLean would be reinstated as host of Hockey Night in Canada.
Does it seem like 28 years ago since you got started on Hockey Night in Canada? No – it’s stunning to me. For Don Cherry, one of the big songs in his life was “You’ve blown it all Sky High” by Jigsaw, which is now 42 years old. Really? It’s staggering. Same when I play beer league hockey, and we shake hands (after the game), and we’re all grey-haired guys. When I started, I was 26 and Don was 52. And now I’m 56.
How did Hockey Day in Canada get started? It was John Shannon – definitely his brainchilld. He was the producer for HNIC – he was actually the guy that hired me out of Red Deer, Alberta. John was really a firm believer – and I think it all stemmed from the way John produced, to expand perimeters. He would always drive, if he could, from one city to the next, and he would stop at some historical spot along the way. I can remember doing a doubleheader for Hartford and Boston and we would stop at Longfellows Wayside Inn, wherever that is. He just wanted to learn about the history around our stops, so I think he very much understood what General Walter Natyncyk said, ‘The further you are from the sound of the guns, the less you understand.’ He knew we had to take this show, and get it out of the ivory tower of the CBC building in Toronto, and put it into Canada, the outreach parts of Canada.
In keeping with this theme, I understand Bob Cole (who’s from Newfoundland) flies in from St. John’s to call games. For sure, and the problem for Bob is that St. John’s has crazy weather. It can be fog, high winds – there’s a lot of things
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Are you a good traveller? I am. I definitely find it a peaceful thing to be on an airplane, good to collect thoughts, do some research. And if I have a late night, I can catch up sleep on the plane. So, no, I don’t mind the travel at all.
And you do it 24-25 weeks in a row over a hockey season. Do you get a break after the hockey season? Last summer with the Rio Olympics and the Calgary Stampede, and the World Cup of Hockey, there wasn’t really a chance to recharge. And I know that Jennifer Botterrill’s father Cal is a great sports psychologist, and he's a big believer in that recharging. It’s something you need to be aware of. I still play beer league hockey, go to the gym, things I need to do to keep my energy. Because time and energy… you know how you always hear time and space in hockey is the thing…well, for us and work, it’s time and energy.
How about this summer – will you have a chance to recharge? Yes (he says with some anticipation), it all seems to come in surges Rob. I cannot believe the next winter Olympics are a year away. The only thing which is frustrating, and we’re waiting for the decision from the NHL, is whether they’re playing or not. If they don’t go, I’ll probably stay here, and just think about Hockey Night in Canada.
Gary Bettman plays a big role in deciding if NHL players will go to the Olympics, and you’ve recently taken him to task for the delay in making a decision. How would you describe your relationship with Gary Bettman? You seem to butt heads? You know, I tell Gary – my questions sound pro player, but it has to be because he’s representing the owners. He’s in management, so I have to kind of get the other side of it. And I know it’s frustrating for him, and I think it’s frustrating for some of the owners to see their agent, their representative taken to task.
Tell hockey fans a positive thing about Gary Bettman. I always tell some of my beer league hockey players. Rod Fehr, the head of the players’ association – and he may kill me for saying this – says he enjoys working with Gary far greater than, say, when he enjoyed working with Bud Selig. He found Bud Selig much more difficult to work with than he’s found Gary, so there’s one thing, which sounds great for player/management relations. (Which usually means fewer work stoppages.) I just think he's extremely well-schooled in his lawyering, and as a result, every word is extremely meaningful to Gary. Where I may be a bit flip in my language, he is not. That’s what sometimes makes him seem cold or distant, that he is searching for the exact word, because he thinks of the legal repercussions. It may not be warm and fuzzy, the way we talk, I think that leads to some of the perception that he’s cold or indifferent. But he’s not. All of his employees, people he works with, they’re very quick to mention his loyalty, his warmth. It’s just he really struggles when he’s on television, to be able to feel free, because he’s aware of the consequences of using the wrong word.
Which does not endear him to hockey fans – right? No, but it’s an unfair expectation. As I’ve said, I’ve tried many ways – I don’t want to just be a company man. I’ve always said, I work for the viewer, the reader, the listener. I don’t work for Rogers per se. They certainly pay the bill, but to truly do our job, we have to do it for the right reasons. That means people in authority are going to have their feet held to the fire. I don’t enjoy it, in a sense, because I know what it’s like to be in the crosshairs. I know what’s is like to have an expectation placed upon you – it’s like having shackles. So it’s not easy for Gary, and it’s not easy for a Don Fehr, or its not easy for a Stephane Quintal (Senior VP of Player Safety), everyone who has that level of responsibility or power.
When all seven Canadian NHL teams missed the playoffs last season, what was your observation of the mood across the country? It’s like Tiger Woods or New England Patriots. Everyone loved Tiger Woods in his heyday. Everyone likes to see excellence. Nothing draws a crowd like excellence. So to have that atmosphere of a playoff game – people do enjoy when the pressure is ratcheted up. It’s great for us to have that. (Pauses and thinks) But you can’t just love it when it’s good. Erich Fromm said ‘If I am what I have, and if I lose what I have who then am I?’ (Ron said it differently “If I am what I have, then I lose what I have, what am I?’ So if you’re a hockey fan, I think the Leafs fans, the Chicago Cubs fans, they’re probably the greatest fans, because they’ve done it without that (winning).
How did Hometown Hockey start? Was it a spin-off of Kraft Hockeyville? The better analogy Rob, would be Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, a grassroots initiative which started in 2000. It was Hockey Night In Canada’s idea – once a year to celebrate the game, to do a 13-hour marathon broadcast with about 4 to 5 hours of grassroots stories, about minor hockey, just all the different ways we come to hockey, whether it’s female hockey, sledge hockey, hockey for those with disabilities. We wanted to really showcase the game in all its different ways and formats. And that is where Hometown Hockey came along.
What do you respect most about Don Cherry? That’s a good one. I just think the Don I know…he’s a rock star in all cities all over North America, or even in Sochi, (or) all the places we’ve had the Olympics, Nagano, just his consistency, his relentless preparation, he’s studied his whole life.
He overthinks and I really respect that. We all understand and know we need to let go in certain aspects to our lives, but to really be good in this industry, you need to be relentless. And Don is absolutely relentless.
What does Don Cherry think of your puns? Don never so much as chuckled at my puns, but one time he couldn’t help himself. He laughed out loud. It was the stupidest thing, too. He was talking about how funny it was to see Mike Keenan wearing glasses, and I said, ‘I thought you liked coaches who make spectacles of themselves.”
Don Cherry has nearly a million followers on twitter, but follows just one person, and that’s you. Is Don a big twitter guy? Yeah sure – he just wants to make sure he can correct me on Saturday night. (Laughs) He’s kinda like a columnist who observes for a day or two, and comes in with his machete, and sorts things out. I don’t even think Don knows what twitter is (laughing) to be honest with you. But they are his posts – he makes his own posts.
When Don’s done, are you done? No, I don’t think so. That’s where Rogers Hometown Hockey has been a great blessing in my life. I think Tara Sloan and I are doing a show which has extreme importance. Saturday night’s obviously the biggest night, but Sunday nights are the most important night. I think we realize we need to be the prism to see all the different ways the game is played, and all the different backgrounds, all the people who play. I think we’re really carving a niche that’s extremely important, that may morph into something outside of hockey.
In finishing up, I have to say it’s a treat watching you on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday, and Hometown Hockey on Sunday – you’re a national treasure. I really appreciate that Rob. The first one is what it is. It’s like being able to play in the NHL. The second one is a labour of love. It’s a show that you feel like you’re making a difference in people’s lives. It really is. So when we get to march in with all the kids from minor hockey on Sunday morning, you’ll know why it’s a show which is so close and dear to my heart.
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Wickenheiser leaves a legacy beyond medals [ By Shannon Cleary ]
On a Friday afternoon in November, I took my seven
year-old daughter to meet Rosie MacLennan, a trampoline gymnast, World Champion and Olympic gold medalist. Rosie stood casually, warmly in the front of the room at the Winter Sports Institute at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary as girls filed inside and sat cross-legged on the floor. Rosie spoke to an audience of young girls in sport, ranging in age from six to 16, about reaching their goals. She revealed her own first goal: to do a successful backflip. Rosie spoke about falling, hurting, failing, and feeling like she might never do it. And then one day, she did. At that moment in her session, she performed a quick and compact backflip as our girls sat in awe. Each girl in Rosie’s session, including my daughter, was there as part of the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival. Rosie was one of many inspirational presenters for the pre-tournament Makadiff Sessions, available to all festival participants. WickFest, as it’s affectionately known, takes place over two four-day weekends in November, with more than 1,500 female participants from across Canada. Although it includes a busy weekend of games for all-girl hockey teams from novice to midget AAA, it’s more than just a competition. It’s a celebration of girls in sport. And it all revolves around one special Canadian. “Have you seen Hayley?” became its own salutation among players and parents at WickFest. And more often than not, the answer was an excited, “Yes!” Hayley weaved between events and arenas, hopping on and off the ice with the hundreds of girls who were there to play some hockey. She stopped by the Timbits Showcase, in which my five-year-old daughter also skated, to meet the four all-girls Timbits teams who play for Girls Hockey Calgary (GHC). GHC and the Rocky Mountain Female Hockey League are also partners with WickFest. This season, GHC alone has 625 registered female players. And those numbers continue to grow. The Timbits players who were there that day knelt on the ice as Hayley Wickenheiser stood beside them, lending her words and warmth to these little girls in skates who can see themselves in Hayley. She left more than one parent breathless as she spoke to the group of five and six-year-olds.
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Olympic medalists Rosie MacLennan, Erica Wiebe and Stephanie Labbé at WickFest Photo Provided By Dave Holland “That’s like being on the ice with Sidney Crosby,” said one of the Timbits coaches, whose two daughters play for GHC. “That’s the Sydney Crosby of women’s hockey.” “Or Sidney Crosby is the Hayley Wickenheiser of men’s hockey,” another parent said, as the joke often goes. But you could argue that neither is true. There really is no one like Hayley Wickenheiser. Few people have done what she’s done to grow the game of hockey to a population of Canadians who were once overlooked. Hayley didn’t just help make women’s hockey valuable, she worked hard to make it accessible, and natural, and exciting. During that pre-tournament session with Rosie MacLennan, the girls were invigorated by Rosie’s surprise backflip. One girl shot up her hand. “Can you do a front flip?” she asked.
Rosie laughed. No, in fact front flips are a little bit harder when you’re just standing still. “I can do one on the trampoline,” Rosie offered. As it just so happened, there was a trampoline down the hall. The girls excitedly followed Rosie, who encouraged them to take a turn on the trampoline first. As they waited somewhat patiently in line, Rosie passed around her two Olympic gold medals for each girl to try on. (“They’re so heavy!” they all said.) Rosie signed photos for the girls, as did Canadian women’s soccer goalkeeper and Olympic bronze medalist Stephanie Labbe, who just stopped by to say hello. Stephanie, also a presenter at WickFest, pulled her bronze medal from her pocket to the delight of the girls. After everyone had a turn, Rosie finally got on the trampoline and proved that she could indeed do a front flip. It was one of the many, many highlights in my daughter’s hockey weekend. Over the next few days in the WinSport arena, pucks slammed against the boards, buzzers buzzed, goals were saved and scored. My seven-year-old’s novice team eventually tied and lost their games, and as luck wouldn’t have it, they did not get the chance to meet Hayley this year.
And while not every girl could have that chance, every girl was there, in more ways than one, because of Hayley.
Hayley Wickenheiser at the Timbits Showcase at WickFest Photo Provided by Dave Holland
Calgary Hockey Magazine | 25
s e o HerFor Her [ By Shannon Cleary // Photos Provided by Dave Holland ]
ockey is a game of greats. But for girls playing hockey in Calgary, there are names beyond Gretzky, Crosby and Lemieux. Organizations in the city are turning the spotlight towards Canada’s female hockey heroes in an effort to mentor an emerging generation of girls who love the game. “It’s something we’ve identified as a goal for girls’ hockey,” said Jody Forbes, president of minor hockey association Girls Hockey Calgary (GHC). “Having our girls coached and mentored by other females.” Forbes believes that Calgary’s world-class hockey programs provide the perfect opportunity for pairing minor hockey players with champions of the game. The city is home to the Hockey Canada Training Centre, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Calgary Inferno, and three post-secondary teams. It’s also home to some of the greatest female players to ever play the game. “People like Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell-Pascall, they’re the pinnacles, they’re the legends,” said Forbes. Sisters Lily and Kylie Smith spent their minor hockey season sharing the ice with those very legends. The girls played on GHC novice and Timbits teams and participated in the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival (WickFest) with Haley Wickenheiser and the Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest with Cassie Campbell-Pascall. Their father, Shaun Smith, now coaches with GHC after 10 years of coaching in minor and major junior leagues. Smith sees the affects these elite female athletes have on his young team. “They’ll actually be more focused during our game after meeting some of these players,” he said. “They get the idea that this is something they could do.” That idea is precisely what Forbes wants to nurture within the girls’ hockey organization. As the league continues to grow – GHC registered 100 new players this season – Forbes sees an opportunity to leverage the city’s immense hockey talent to craft a cohesive identity. “We want to create that feeling of being part of something bigger,” she said. GHC partnered with the CWHL Calgary Inferno, adopting a Jr. Inferno logo and pairing each minor hockey team with an Inferno mentor. While the partnership is only in its first year, Forbes has already seen how strongly the girls identify with professional women players. “They don’t connect with the same male role models that our sons might have,” she said. “These girls connect with the Meaghan Mikkelsons and Natalie Spooners.”
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The list of female role models is long, and it often swells during Olympic years when Team Canada competes on the international stage. GHC enjoys a bump in registrations every four years, as national female players become household names during that time. But at any time, in any household, people know the name Hayley Wickenheiser. With a career than spans decades and accolades of every measure, Wickenheiser has secured her status as legend and honoured her role as trailblazer in women’s hockey. “I think [it’s important] for young girls to know there’s a path for them,” said Wickenheiser. “That there are women doing exactly what they want to do.” Each year in Calgary, Wickenheiser hosts WickFest, a tournament-style event that celebrates hockey and facilitates personal development. The festival, which has over 1,500 female participants, provides ice time and off-ice sessions with professional players and Olympic athletes. Wickenheiser said this type of access is key to supporting future generations. “You need to expose them to the very best possible,” she said. “Give them the tools to develop, if that’s what they want to do.” For young female athletes with elite aspirations, Wickenheiser stresses the value of hard work. From the earliest stage of the game to the highest level of play, she believes in putting your name on your performance. Which is why Wickenheiser spends almost every waking minute of her WickFest weekends interacting with players from Timbits to midget AAA. “For me it’s about the performance you put in,” she said. “That’s ultimately how you elevate something,”
A & Q with
Meaghan Mikkelson Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid is many things. She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, an IIHF Women’s World Champion, and defensive powerhouse with the Clarkson Cup winning Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She’s a member of Team Canada, a mom, and for two all-girl hockey teams in Calgary, she’s also a mentor. Needless to say, she’s very busy. Here’s what Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid thinks about her mentorship role with the city’s female minor hockey association, Girls Hockey Calgary, and her thoughts on girls in the game:
Raising the profile of women’s hockey is not new. After the International Olympic Committee approved women’s hockey in the early ‘90s, Canada assembled its first female team. Since then, Cassie Campbell-Pascall has become the only captain, male or female, to lead Canada to two Olympic golds. The longest-serving captain in Canadian hockey history, Campbell-Pascall continues to serve by promoting the game that’s given her and her teammates so much. “It’s sort of an unwritten rule that you have to give back,” she said. After her retirement, Campbell-Pascall created Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest. The event is free and promotes a positive hockey experience for girls from coast to coast. Girls at any level can skate on NHL ice, learn about nutrition and play alongside some of the best female players in the game. “I think it’s important for little girls to see their role models,” she said. “It gives them some hope and some legitimacy.” Campbell-Pascall recently commentated the CWHL All-Star game, which was broadcast in the timeslot leading into Hockey Night in Canada. It was a thrill for Campbell-Pascall and female players across the country. During All-Star weekend, she reminisced with former teammates and marveled at how the playing field has continued to shift. “We’re so humbled by how the game has grown,” she said. “We kind of wish we were younger so we could reap the benefits.” For young players like Lily and Kylie Smith, meeting Wickenheiser and Campbell-Pascall were some of the highlights of their season. For their father Shaun Smith, his proudest moment was watching Lily develop within the game. “As she’s grown with hockey, she’s grown off the ice as well,” said Smith, adding that Lily takes more of a leadership role with her brother, sister and friends. “I don’t think she would have that without it.” Lily said she wants to play hockey again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. And while no parent can say what the future holds for these young female hockey players, with heroes like Wickenheiser, Campbell-Pascall, and so many others holding the torch, it certainly looks bright.
What has your experience as a mentor meant to you? It’s been a great experience being a mentor. Having the opportunity to give back at the grassroots level is a humbling and inspiring experience. It reminds you where your dreams started and why we play the game!
Why is it important for young hockey players to have mentors? I think it is important for ALL young girls and boys to have mentors, no matter what it is they do and what their dreams are. To have positive role models that give them valuable advice and guidance is a great gift to be able to give. It is a tough world to grow up in these days, so having support and guidance, along with positivity in their lives is so important.
Who were your mentors when you were younger? My parents were great mentors for me growing up. They were both involved in sports at a high level so they had some very valuable advice to offer me. I had heroes like Cassie Campbell-Pascall that I looked up to.
How important is the partnership between Girls Hockey Calgary and Calgary Inferno? I think this partnership is a great way to connect female hockey in Calgary, all the way from the youngest age to the highest level (outside the national team) that there is to offer. It allows the GHC girls the opportunity to meet us, ask us any questions they may have, and really just see what the Calgary Inferno are all about. It also gives them something to aspire to - to play for the Calgary Inferno one day. When I was younger, I didn’t have a league like this to aspire to play in, and it is great that this is available as an option now.
Have you seen a change in opportunities for girls in hockey? Women's hockey has grown tremendously over the years and since I was young. Growing up, I did not even have the option to play on an all girls team! Now there are so many different teams at the different levels. You can play all-female winter hockey, spring hockey, and summer hockey. You name it. There are scholarship opportunities in the CIS and NCAA, which are phenomenal. And now there is our league, the CWHL, that is continuing to grow and gain strength each year. We hope that one day very soon our league will be able to pay our players, and that you can one day be a hockey player in the CWHL for a living.
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Photo Provided by Ben Matchett Very first Crowchild Classic at the Saddledome 2013
VOICE VOICE OF OF THE THE
UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
DINOS: KEVIN KEVIN WARRINER WARRINER By Jeremy Freeborn
For the last two decades, University of Calgary
communications graduate Kevin Warriner can frequently be found at Father David Bauer Arena broadcasting the University of Calgary Dinos men’s hockey games. His passion for hockey is significant. Even though he is busy as the vice-principal of Father James Whelihan Elementary and Junior High School in southeast Calgary, Warriner remains committed to the Dinos broadcasts as their play-by-play announcer on www.canadawest.tv. Prior to the Dinos home game against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on Jan. 6, Warriner, who is also a husband and father of four children, took the time to reflect on his hockey broadcasting career in an exclusive interview for Hockey Magazine Calgary. Warriner began his hockey broadcasting career while participating in the broadcasting program at Mount Royal College. He was the voice of the Mount Royal College Cougars on CMRC radio for the second half of the 199596 season and the entire 1996-97 season in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference. “For a very long time growing up I was a sports fan and knew that I wasn’t going to play competitively. It was an opportunity for me to be involved in a personal way,” said Warriner.
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He has fond memories of broadcasting the Cougars games in the 1995-96 season. Mount Royal advanced to the ACAC championship before losing to the NAIT Ooks three games to two in a best-of-five series. “I realized how invested I became and how I felt I was part of the team when you experience something like that,” recalled Warriner. “They were so close and yet in a way, so far away.” Warriner remembers Cougars centres Scott Longstaff and Scott Loucks during his time. Longstaff played in the CHL and ECHL, while Loucks played four seasons in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and Regina Pats. Warriner instantly enjoyed the ACAC brand of hockey. “At that time, I was very much a professional sports fan and didn’t know a lot about junior hockey,” he said. “The quality of play was excellent. Players improved as they went from 19 to 20 to 21.” After graduating from Mount Royal College, Warriner enrolled in the communications program at the University of Calgary in the fall of 1997. While attending university, Warriner once again found himself part of the hockey broadcasts, this time for CJSW radio.
Warriner graduated with a communications degree in 2000. The following season in 2000-01, he remained with Dinos athletics, serving as their events co-ordinator. In addition to hockey, Warriner did public address announcing in volleyball and basketball. He also wrote player profiles for the Dinos website. At the end of the season, he won the 2001 Dr. Lou Goodwin Award, presented to the person who makes an outstanding annual contribution to men’s athletics at UCalgary. After working in Grande Prairie for a year, Warriner returned to Calgary in the fall of 2002 and enrolled in the university’s education department. He once again returned to the Dinos as their public address announcer in men’s hockey. Public address announcing has a different set of challenges from broadcasting play-by-play, says Warriner. “Public addressing is more than just announcing the penalties and the goal scorers. It is about getting a good mix of music, information, advertisements and making sure that people who are in attendance at the game are informed and entertained at the same time.” Warriner remained in the roll of the Dinos public address announcer until 2011 when he made the transition back to play-by-play. For the last six seasons, his work has been heard on www.canadawest.tv. From a player perspective, Warriner enjoyed watching Jared Aulin and Ryan Annesley over the years. Aulin played for the Los Angeles Kings before joining the Dinos in 2007-08, while Annesley played for the Calgary Hitmen before joining the Dinos for five seasons starting in 2003-04. Warriner also remembers the time when defenceman Jarett Bousquet played for the Cougars and then the Dinos from 1996 to 1999. Bousquet went on to be an NHL player agent for Scott Niedermayer and Shea Weber. With the games being streamed live on the Internet, the Dinos can be seen throughout the world. Among those who listen to Warriner’s work is the family of current Dinos goaltender Matt Greenfield, who is from Parkland, Florida, as well as many former Dinos who have gone on to play hockey in Europe and the United States. Warriner’s most memorable game came at the 2016 Crowchild Classic, an annual matchup between the Dinos and Cougars, who have been part of Canadian Interuniversity Sport since 2012-13. The Crowchild Classic is special because it is played at the Scotiabank Saddledome and on this night, a CIS attendance record was set at 12,859 fans. The Dinos beat the Cougars 2-1 in double overtime on a game winning goal by Max Ross of Lethbridge. The rivalry between the Dinos and Cougars has been competitive in recent years as the Cougars have emerged as a strong contender in Canada West men’s hockey action. Warriner credits excellent coaching and recruiting as the major reason for the Cougars’ success. He is also fascinated by the strong camaraderie the Dinos and Cougars players have with each other. “A lot of these players have close friendships off the ice,” he said. “They don’t necessarily take classes together because
To have people like Kevin in your program and around your team is essential because they care. You want people who are passionate about what they do and care about what you do and he does that.
“When the Dinos athletics department got a deal with CJSW, we were really satisfied,” he said. “We were further satisfied with the high ratings that we had. We had a tremendous following. It was important in Dinos athletics to expose the product to the university population.” Broadcasting hockey on CJSW allowed them to do that.
they are going to different institutions but many have the same set of friends and grew up playing minor hockey together in a lot of cases. But at the same time there is something to be said about city bragging rights and they take that incredibly seriously.” During his time with the Dinos, Warriner has received significant respect within the Dinos Athletics department and coaching staff. Dinos assistant athletic director Ben Matchett has been impressed with Warriner’s high level of commitment to the Dinos’ athletics program over the years. “From his days as a student at the University of Calgary, Kevin has been a vital presence at Dinos men’s hockey games. Amateur sport is built around people like Kevin—passionate individuals who love the game and want to give back, and hockey has kept Kevin connected to the university long past his graduation. We were thrilled to be able to return him to the post of lead play-by-play commentator upon the launch of our webcasts several years ago, and he is consistently among the most prepared, knowledgeable broadcasters in our league. His contribution to Dinos hockey is invaluable, and we look forward to many more years working with him.” Dinos head coach Mark Howell also gives Warriner high praise. “To have people like Kevin in your program and around your team is essential because they care. You want people who are passionate about what they do and care about what you do and he does that.” Howell is pleased the Dinos games are broadcasted on www. canadawest.tv. “I think it is very important. It just makes our league that much more professional.” Warriner currently does play-by-play for the University of Calgary Dinos more as a hobby than a profession. But, he says, he would be interested if he was contacted by the Vegas Golden Knights to be their first play-by-play broadcaster in the history of their franchise. The Golden Knights will be the National Hockey League’s 31st team this fall.
Calgary Hockey Magazine | 29
Calling Al l
GOLD MEDAL WINNERS If your child won a gold medal at the 2017 Esso Calgary Minor Hockey Week, we want to hear from you! Please complete the following questionnaire and send it in by September 15th, 2017, and your child could be featured in the next issue of the Official Calgary Hockey Magazine!
Current Team: Number of Years Played:
Usual Position: Favourite Hockey Team: Favourite Hockey Player: Who is your Role Model: Other Hobbies / Interests:
Send in completed entries, along with a photo (preferably in a hockey uniform) to:
Favourite Hockey Memory:
GOLD MEDAL WINNER
RAZIQ DEVRAJ Age: 12
Current Team: Simons Valley Peewee Storm 1 Number of Years Played: 8 Usual Position: Goaltender Favourite Hockey Team: Calgary Flames Favourite Hockey Player: Jonathan Quick Who is your Role Model: My Dad Other Hobbies/interests: Baseball, music & video games Favourite Hockey Memory: Being the Scotiabank skater in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks in 2015
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T H G I L T SPO ON AN OFFICIAL A R D N CASSA Y R O G GRE [ By Rob Suggitt ]
I caught a very exciting Bantam AAA game in early December, but it was a young referee who really captured my attention. It was a tight contest with lots of close calls to make, and I left the game impressed with the composure and confidence displayed by the officials that night. In particular, the referee who called the game really stood out – 22-year-old Cassandra Gregory. I met up with Cassandra a few months later, as she was about to get on the ice to officiate an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) hockey game. Unlike the Bantam AAA game where Cassandra had a few years on the players, Cassandra was about the same age as the participants in this college hockey game. And just like the game’s participants, Cassandra is a post-secondary student, studying kinesiology at the University of Alberta. Aside from school studies and officiating hockey, Cassandra runs pub crawls part-time, and her hobbies and interests include flag football, golf, running and snowshoeing. She started officiating at 13 years old, and currently officiates over 100 games a season. (Last year, she officiated 114 games.) Cassandra took time before going on the ice to chat with us about her interest in officiating hockey, and her future aspirations.
[ Photos provided by Avonlea Photography ]
CHM: How did your parents handle the games and scrutiny which comes with being a young hockey official? CG: They just tried to avoid the coaches and parents when they stuck around to watch. My dad was my toughest critic – not mean or anything, but if I missed an obvious call, he would let me know.
CHM: Which do you prefer – referee or linesman? CG: I prefer to be a linesman – you have a completely different rapport with the players. It’s really hard for a linesman to screw up a game – they will usually yell at the ref, but rarely the linesman.
Calgary Hockey Magazine: What made you want to become a hockey official?
CHM: What level of hockey are you currently officiating?
Cassandra Gregory: I wanted to get a part time job and this was the only one my parents would let me have.
CG: I skate Midget AAA/Junior B and everything below on the male side. For female hockey, I skate CIS (university) and below.
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CHM: I understand that you have officiated Minor Hockey Week every year you’ve been an official. Recognizing that officials donate their time (and are not paid), what makes you volunteer your time as an official for Minor Hockey Week? CG: When I played, MHW was the most fun tournament of the year. It was more exciting to win MHW than it was to win playoffs. A lot of officials get into the mindset that they are “above” the level of hockey they are working. They forget that the game doesn’t owe us anything but we owe the game everything. If you aren’t officiating/playing/coaching because you love the game, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
program when I was still a fairly new official and took me under her wing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
CHM: With your 10 years’ experience, do you find yourself offering any mentorship to younger officials? CG: Yes, for sure. A couple of weeks ago, I was on a road trip to Lethbridge and Calgary, and I was joined by one of the up and coming female officials. She had so many questions, and I tried to pass along any feedback or advice I could offer.
CHM: How have you improved your skills as an official? CHM: Do you have any special memories from Minor Hockey Week? CG: As an official, my first Minor Hockey Week final was a lot of fun to work. It’s really cool that the tournament gives us the same reward as they do to the finalists (i.e. Oil Kings tickets, mugs, medals, etc.).
CHM: Do you have any highlights related to any other big games or tournaments you wish to pass along? CG: Last season, I worked the National Women’s Under-18 tournament in Huntsville, ON. It was my first national tournament and it was surreal to get off the plane, have a host waiting with a sign for you, and getting to skate with the next generation of potential Olympic team players.
CHM: What do you enjoy most about officiating hockey games? CG: You go on the ice and nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a terrible day; you step on the ice and that’s the only thing you’re thinking about.
CHM: What kind of training were/are you provided? CG: I was fortunate enough to have been selected to attend the Referee Development Camp in June of 2016. It’s a week long camp and is run in conjunction with the Male U16 Development Camp. For officials, we go over off-ice and onice testing, nutrition, power skating and other tools to help us get to the next level. Aside from development camp, we get supervised at games and we have to take a clinic every year to learn new rules and brush up on some old ones.
CG: I spend a lot of time watching elite officials and learning from them. I ask a lot of questions as to why they do things that I’ve never seen before. Along with that, every CIS game I work, I get a copy of the game and review it. Just as players would, I go through and watch the game tape and see what I could’ve done differently in certain situations (getting bumped down the line as a linesman, or how to get a better sightline as a referee). Fitness is also important once you start working higher levels, so I always try to keep up with that.
CHM: What is the toughest part about being a referee? CG: The hardest part for me is bouncing back after you make a call you aren’t happy with. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The thing with being a referee is that you don’t get to sit out a shift and reset. You have to keep going while everyone yells at you; you can’t let it seem like it’s bothering you. I’ll always admit to a coach/player when I’ve messed up and usually that helps them calm down a little.
CHM: Being one of the few female referees, are there any extra challenges in dealing with players or coaches? CG: It definitely makes things a little different. You step into the arena and everyone immediately notices you. And it makes me an easy target. However, I’ve had more issues at the lower levels I skate. At the higher levels, a lot of the coaches and players understand that officials don’t get put into games without earning our spots. Once I step on the ice and doing just as good of a job as the rest of the crew, my gender becomes irrelevant and they treat me the same as they would any other official.
CHM: How do you handle criticism on the ice? CG: We have to treat disrespect with respect. If you’re confident with your calls, it makes it easier to be calm. Hockey is a game. People get emotional and you can’t take it personally. Of course, if it gets over the top, there are rules in the rulebook to help you out.
CHM: Do you have any future aspirations in officiating? CG: The next step I would like to take is to skate an IIHF tournament. Long term, I’d love to go to the Olympics.
CHM: Do you have a role model or mentor who has helped you along the way? CG: There have been a ton of people who helped me along the way, however, the one who I feel has helped me the most has been Aaron Best. She was in charge of the female
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CHM: Do you have comments you wish to share with parents, coaches or anyone watching minor hockey? CG: We’re all human. We’re all somebody’s kids. We lose a lot of referees every year because of the abuse that they receive. We don’t yell at your child when they mess up a pass or miss on a breakaway. At the end of the day, hockey is just a game and we all need to remember that.
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