Hockey, at its core, is a game. Yet sometimes that's an easily overlooked fact, especially when hockey can take on a greater meaning. And when choice individuals go above and beyond the call for the sake of the sport, it becomes all the more special.
Molson Canadian recently held a contest it called #ANYTHINGFORHOCKEY, which solicited entries from Canadians telling their stories about what they would do for hockey. Eleven winners were announced, with the grand prize of being flown to a professionally-made mountain rink in a remote range near the Rocky Mountains to play a game.
Eleven winners of Molson Canadian's
#ANYTHINGFORHOCKEY contest were flown to a pro-
made mountain rink near the Rocky Mountains.
Photo: Oreon Mounter/Moment Communications
(Click to enlarge)
Though the 11 winners were different ages and genders, and told different stories, one common thread united them all: a passion for and commitment to hockey.
"I saw it [the contest] and it showed this helicopter going by the thing," said Don Dietrich, one of the winners, of Deloraine, Manitoba. "I looked at it, and it was a rink, and I said, 'That would be a neat place to go see.'"
Dietrich had a brief NHL career, playing a combined 28 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils from 1983-1986. At age 34, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Though his playing career had ended, Dietrich started coaching and he didn't let that diagnosis, or an eventual cancer diagnosis, stop him from continuing to coach and play the sport he loves.
"Hockey is everything to me – even though I struggle with my body, when I am on the ice it all goes away," said Dietrich in a Molson release. "Having the opportunity to skate in such a unique, isolated location is something that I never thought I would be able to do."
Carolyn Hazell, 21, of Ottawa, Ontario, was another winner. A hockey player growing up, Hazell taught the sport to young boys and girls while she was abroad in Nicaragua as part of an alternative spring break program with Carleton University.
"They got the benefit of having extra hands to build a school," Hazell said. "We got the benefits of learning from their community."
PHOTOS: Anything for Hockey
Molson Canadian recently asked fans what they would do for hockey. (Photo: Oreon Mounter/Moment Communications)
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Sharing in a cultural experience was something Hazell got to give back. She said after watching the children play baseball with branches, she got the idea to use hockey tape to turn them into sticks, and with a puck in her bag, began to teach them the sport she grew up playing.
"They had no idea what it was; they didn't even know what the puck was," Hazell said. "They kept calling it a ball.
"The community leader said the girls don't play sports. The girls were the first ones to play, and as a girl's hockey player, that was cool for me."
Hazell has continued teaching hockey to children by volunteering her time with the Ottawa Girl's Hockey Association, instructing four- to six-year-olds. Dietrich has never stopped coaching and said the lessons hockey has taught him have helped him in his own battles.
"All the good coaches I had didn't teach me that winning was everything, they taught me the will to succeed, and that's kind of the attitude that I had to grasp out of hockey to deal with these illnesses," Dietrich said. "You don't have a choice in hockey who you line up against, but you have to beat that person across from you, right? Or try to.
"That's why I said, I revert back to hockey for all that. When I had my first cancer diagnosis, I cried for about 20 seconds, and then all the old coaches in my background, the good ones, I could just hear them say, 'Get up off the ice. Don't swing your stick in anger, and play the game; play the game of life.'
"That's kind of how I view it."