What gets lost with many goals, is that teamwork made them happen.
With the encouragement of Constable Sue Crawford from the bench, 11-year-old Myrina took to the ice, headed warily towards the slot, her mission, from her coach Alexander Markovic, to score a goal. Her teammates in the corners fed her the puck, and, after some misfires, she put the puck into the netting – turning to the bench, beaming at her work.
It was just another Monday afternoon at Moss Park arena, where dozens of kids had the chance to learn skating skills and scrimmage on the ice thanks to the HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out to Society) Hockey program.
“I have the luck to be out there and I have to take advantage of it,” said the little girl, who had no bearings on the ice until three years ago when she joined the program. “Today I tried my best and scored my first goal. I usually don’t like to because I get scared but today all that doubt, all the scary things I knew about, I let them go and I tried my best and that’s what’s important.”
Police officers from 51 Division take part in the program, made up of volunteers, giving encouragement to the kids and taking part in drills.
“They’re nice, they help me get ready, teach me how to put things on,” Myrina says.
Moss Park Neighbourhood Officer Constable Sue Crawford says 51 Division Community Response unit officers are on hand every week because they see the results, kids helping and respecting each other.
“Some of the kids start out by stepping on the ice and falling down. They’re progressing to learning hockey skills. It’s great to see them helping each other out because they’re at all different levels,” Crawford says. “Watching them work together to get Myrina a goal was great.”
She says the 51 Division officers get recognized in schools and on the street because of the hockey program.
“It’s another opportunity for the kids to see us as normal people. We’re out playing hockey and goofing around with them,” says Crawford, noting the instructors put the focus on life, not hockey skills.
HEROS executive director Norm Flynn founded the program 17 years ago as a way to get kids off the street and on the ice.
“It started as a hockey-centric program,” says Flynn. “Now it’s all about a sense of self-esteem and creating a very safe environment for our kids and surrounding them with positive role models.”
The HEROS behaviours: Listening, Respect, Discipline, Have Fun are recited by the kids before and after each session, Flynn at centre ice enlisting the help of the kids to deliver them in Somali, Urdu, English and French and always deliver them in a booming voice to be heard by the group.
Meeting 10-year-old Taki, who came to Canada from Syria two years ago and only starting skating last year, was a highlight of his day.
“This is my third time on the ice and you’ll never get me off the ice,” Flynn quoted the child.
“Any kind of sport a kid can play is important,” Flynn says. “Hockey seems to be really cost-restrictive. Instead of having their nose against the glass, we want to get them on the ice and participate on a team.”
Hockey got him a four-year business degree.
“I made a lot of great friends and we want to give kids that opportunity.”
Cosburn Middle School Teacher Alexander Markovic has been volunteering with the program for nine years.
“It got me to change my whole career path to teaching,” says Markovic, who encouraged the better skaters to ensure Myrina got the puck.
“What I like about Heroes is that it uses hockey as a catalyst for life skills and I’ve always believed that’s what sports should be. There is a competitive side to sports but that’s not the most important thing,” Markovic says. “You want everybody to be involved and enjoy it. You don’t want anybody to walk away because they are too shy or don’t think they’re good enough. She’s never going to forget that, which was the best thing – creating those little moments.”