Vanderhoof may soon have its own hockey breakfast club that aims to make the sport more accessible to newcomers as well as minor hockey players.
The club will be spearheaded by David Simoes who played hockey professionally in the Central Hockey League and British Columbia Hockey League. During his career he played defense for teams such as the Missouri Mavericks, Louisiana IceGators, Rapid City Rush, Allen Americans, Youngstown Steelhounds, New Mexico Scorpions, Burnaby Express, Merritt Centennials, Williams Lake TimberWolves and the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Simoes said he got the idea to start the breakfast club from Hockey Manitoba. The idea is to create an environment where kids of all ages and skill groups come together and enjoy hockey. The floor would be divided into different sections based on skill level or age group, he said.
The day for the kids would start with drills at 7 am which will encompass the first half of the practice, Simoes explained, adding that from 7:30 to 8 am, he wants to encourage kids to have free time and use their imagination to play hockey amongst themselves.
“Back when we were growing up there was pond hockey and you would be playing outside on outdoor rinks, but you don’t see that anymore. I feel that imagination has died down a little with the kids,” Simoes said.
“There are video games, technology, screen time and by doing something like this, my hope is to bring back that idea to just go out and do whatever you want and have fun and make your own games up. Let the kids teach each other rather than having someone tell them what to do the entire time,” he added.
With varied skills, there may be kids that are not as good as others or would want to play scrimmage down at one side of the rink, “we will be out with the kids, but the hope is that they are the ones organizing their free time on the ice,” he said.
Apart from Simoes, other coaches involved in the club are Marty Floris and Jason Kadagona. Floris has been a volunteer in hockey for the past 25 years in Vanderhoof and coached both Simoes when he was younger and his son in the sport.
These volunteer coaches will be heading different stations on the ice and the kids would then rotate through these stations, Simoes added.
The breakfast portion of day will be from 8 to 8:30 am and Simoes said Blue Valley Enterprises Ltd from Vanderhoof will be sponsoring the meal for the kids.
“The idea is also to get kids ready for school. If you exercise before you go to school you are going to be much sharper,” he said.
Getting pond hockey back to the rink is the main idea, Simoes said, adding he agreed that hockey as a sport could do with a little bit of a boost in the District.
“Everywhere we are seeing numbers in hockey and sports dwindle in general. I don’t know what the answer would be to deal with that. But I think sports are extremely important. The camaraderie with teammates and learning life lessons is important. And you want that as a parent that your kids find something difficult and to overcome that difficulty they use problem solving and that’s what sports does for you,” Simoes said.