Heading into last weekend, I had no story ideas to start off the new year. ’Not a good position to be in, so I had my story radar on scan-mode as the hours clicked by.
My wife, Terry and I took our 5-year-old grandson to his hockey practice at Twin Rinks in Chilliwack on Saturday morning and I brought my camera along to get some photos of his first year in organized sports.
The practice was set up in four stations, with dads and moms working the players through the paces for 10 to 15 minutes before sending the kids on to the next activity.
At station #2, a story idea came barreling through my lens. There was a dad out on the ice, looking like he was enjoying the practice as much as the kids were. And what do you know: it was Brad Bone, a long time friend of our son Patrick. Brad and Pat played all of their minor hockey in Hope, from the late 1980s to 2002 — and now here was Brad, coaching his son Tanner and Pat’s son, Gunnar.
Seated in the stands were the familiar faces of Bone’s parents, Frank and Cheryl — back in the game, one generation later. It was a regular hockey circle-of-life moment.
Post-practice, Brad enthused, “Oh yeah, I love it! The kids have so much fun, it makes it all worth it.”
This is Brad’s first time as coach of the Hockey 1 ‘Initiation’ kids, though he was an assistant coach in Hope, back in about 2003 and he coached football in Chilliwack for a couple of years. Though he lives in Chilliwack, Brad still plays rec hockey in Hope. Sometimes he’s lucky and his job as a heavy equipment operator for CN Rail has him working near town on game day.
He figures today’s young players have the jump on kids who started the game back in the ‘80s.
“The kids are better and more well-rounded in their skills,” he said. “As coaches, we know a lot more, too, mainly through on-line coach’s training from Hockey Canada.” The extra equipment, including padded rink dividers, also helps to further the options for instruction.
“I’d love to keep coaching with the kids as they get older,” said Brad. If he does, he’ll be guided by memories of influential coaches from his Hope Minor Hockey days.
“Victor Smith, Lui Talarico and Obie Erickson definitely — and Murray Sullivan, who also helped with reffing,” said Brad. “They knew how to make sure the kids were having fun.”
Hope Secondary senior girls basketball coach, Jeff Kuhn said that growing up in North Carolina, he didn’t have much chance of not being involved in sports.
“Sports were big,” he emphasized. I started basketball in grade 2 and played through high school and I played football from grade 7 to 12.” He added, “I never, ever thought I was going to be a coach, though — not until my girls got involved in sports.
“Geordie Webber roped me into coaching soccer but I learned I like the dry, indoor sports better,” he said, laughing.
“I’ve been coaching basketball for 11 years now and I’m finally starting to realize what I’m supposed to be doing.
“It’s not all about skill development. It’s also about building relationships with each other and caring for each other,” said Kuhn, who also leads the congregation as senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “By building strong relationships, it motivates players to be committed to the team… then they’ll work harder on their skills and make sacrifices for the good of the team.
“I spoke about this in a sermon, recently: that relationships connect us to a community — and when we’re connected, there’s a reason for us to do the right thing.
“I got into coaching basketball because I love the game,” added Kuhn, “but I’m staying with it because it’s a way of shaping people. The whole experience, the hard work and sacrifice, the celebration and the struggle just helps to make people better.”