It’s not every day that kids from Oil Country can put themselves in the shoes of NHL prospects, but, for 400 Lac La Biche residents, the opportunity to be chosen to attend the Oilers Hockey Clinic presented by Cenovus Energy could be compared to the feeling of awaiting one’s fate at the NHL Entry Draft.
With a record number of registrants, Oilers staff put the hopeful names into a barrel and, one-by-one, sealed the fate of 100 lucky participants.
“For the kids that did make it, in their own little way, it’s like being on the Oilers team or being selected by the team. It’s really special,” said Oilers President Patrick LaForge.
The excitement and buzz leading up to the clinic culminated in a free community BBQ Friday evening, open to all Lac La Biche and area residents. People enjoyed refreshments, a game of floor hockey with Oilers alumni Sean Brown, the opportunity to mix and mingle with the Octane and more fun and games.
A highlight for many was the presence of Oilers left-winger Darcy Hordichuk and defenceman Taylor Fedun who were on-site to sign autographs, take pictures and visit with Lac La Biche residents.
“It’s fun just to hear the different stories and hear the kids talk about the different games they came to, they’re just so supportive of the team,” said Hordichuk. “We’re here enjoying what we can do in the community.”
For the lucky 100 chosen to attend the Oilers Hockey Clinic, the excitement continued through the weekend. As the kids arrived at the Bold Center bright and early Saturday morning, Oilers staff wasted no time getting the kids set up for a day of on-ice instruction, dry-land training and nutrition classes.
“Everything’s individual based. We’re looking at skating, puck control, shooting and scoring,” said Hockey Canada’s Kevin Bathurst during an on-ice training session. “We’re trying to help the kids get some better individual skills so when they head back to their teams they’re in a better situation to be a positive influence.”
“The first part of it I was sweating pretty bad,” said grassroots player Teneille. “I was having so much fun when we got to slide on our bellies and do somersaults.”
The dry-land component helped teach the kids proper stretching and warm-up techniques along with ways to help improve overall fitness, benefiting them not only in hockey but in their overall lives. In nutrition class, the students broke down Canada’s Food Guide to help gain a better understanding of portion control and what appropriate foods will help them fuel their game.
“I love it so far, I came all the way from Cold Lake Alberta to do this,” said Lexton. “The best part about it is when we had the snacks in the nutrition class.”
Parent Cameron Olsen also commented, “Awesome, first class, great weekend! All the kids had a great time.” “Obviously when you come here and see the kids smile, it brings a smile to my face too,” said Oilers alumni Sean Brown. “We were all fans growing up and we were all at one point this age. I was pretty fortunate to live my dream and make it to the NHL. Hopefully some of these kids will live their dreams and we can help them achieve some of that.”
The expert tips the kids received from the Edmonton Oilers, Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta were made possible by Cenovus Energy, whose partnership with the Oilers paved the way for the weekend’s events.
“Our priorities are to give back to the community and that’s obviously important to the the Oilers too,” said Lise Warawa, Community Relations, Cenovus Energy. “When you get together and make that your primary focus for your community, to benefit from these kinds of things, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
“It’s great to see our community partners putting financial resources and human resources into programs like this to make sure that kids have the opportunity to play the game in a fun environment, and it’s unbelievable to see what people can do when they give back to their community,” added Bathurst.
As the Oilers Hockey Clinic presented by Cenovus Energy came to a close and 100 tuckered out kids left the Bold Center Sunday evening, an important question remained: “Where will the clinic be held next year? If your northern Alberta community has a centre that houses the resources required for a 100-person hockey clinic, please send your inquiry or recommendation to firstname.lastname@example.org.