The smell of BBQ and sounds of excitement filled the air at the Bold Center in Lac La Biche Friday as hundreds of residents helped kick-off the Oilers Hockey Clinic presented by Cenovus Energy. The free event offered fun and games for the whole family, including a chance to meet Oilers players, an exhibition of Oilers trophies and game-used equipment, the chance to mingle with members of the Octane cheer team, a top-shot shooter station, a game of floor hockey with Oilers alumni Sean Brown, and much more.
“I was trying to play the hockey game,” said Dominic Simpson as he exited the floor hockey match, giving another young goalie the chance to get in net. “In the NHL I want to be a goalie so I want to practice that here.”
Oilers left-winger Darcy Hordichuk and defenceman Taylor Fedun joined in the festivities along with Brown. The trio signed autographs, met with some of Oil Country’s youngest and biggest fans, and reflected on their own experiences as grassroots players growing up.
“I think, growing up as a kid, you definitely like to idolize some of the players and any time you can get a chance to come to these events it’s important,” said Hordichuk. “It brings families together and they get to enjoy the hockey aspect a little bit more when they get to play some of these games and bring their friends.”
Oilers President and COO Patrick LaForge was also on hand, presenting a cheque for $2,000 to Kid Sport Alberta on behalf of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. LaForge, who grew up in the area, felt a special connection returning to Lac La Biche.
“It’s pretty strange because I grew up on a farm here, we weren’t rich, the community was an agriculture community and now to walk in here and see this big facility and to watch all the kids getting into it, it’s amazing,” said LaForge . “It’s amazing how much traction the Oilers have with the families, hockey players and just people in general who came out to say hello tonight.”
LaForge addressed the excited crowd, thanking them for their heartfelt welcome and expressing his sincere gratitude towards Cenovus Energy, whose support and partnership made the Friday kick-off and other events on the weekend possible.
“We’ve been working with Cenovus for quite a while on community programming, hockey clinics and other special events in small northern communities,” said LaForge. “I’ve come to really know a lot about their company and they really do care about the places where their employees live and work, and they go the extra mile.”
“We live and work in this community and we have a lot of local people whose kids participate in these kinds of sporting events,” said Lise Warawa, Community Relations, Cenovus Energy. “Not everybody plays minor hockey so it also gives an opportunity for kids who may not otherwise be able to afford to come and they get to participate in the clinic free of charge. It’s just another way to give back to the community which is important to us and, obviously, the Oilers; it’s a great partnership all around.”
Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, 100 kids got tips from the experts during on-ice instruction, dry land training and nutrition classes that are all geared to help them improve and develop their hockey skills. Oilers staff were helped with instructors from Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta.
Judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces on opening night alone, the Oilers Hockey Clinic presented by Cenovus was obviously a smash hit with the young players, their families, and the rest of the people in Lac La Biche.