Affiliate Sites expand
Hockey Canada logo

Crane finds friendship as Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer

After quitting his full-time job to focus on Canada's National Para Hockey Team, Rod Crane filled his free time by giving back to his community

Branden Crowe
|
April 19, 2023

When Rod Crane received word that he made Canada's National Para Hockey Team, he knew his life would change. He just wasn’t sure how.

The Clarksburg, Ont., native knew his hockey career was about to take off, but when he quit his job to focus full-time on training for the national team in 2018-19, he found an abundance of time in his calendar. After mulling over various ideas, his mother, Christine, mentioned the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Barrie & District.

"I had been looking for a volunteer gig to help me pass the time and keep busy, and she was the one who first brought it up," says Crane, who won a silver medal at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. "She thought it would be a good fit, so I looked into it and got matched with a great family."

For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been championing the health and well-being of youth, ensuring children are supported by caring adults — helping them physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and academically. This year alone, the organization has impacted over 41,000 youth in over 1,100 communities across Canada.

After going through the application process, Crane was matched with a fifth-grader named Sandro, and the two became fast friends.

"He's such a funny kid," says Crane, a defenceman who began his para hockey career in 2014 with the Elmvale Bears. "Sandro is so smart, very driven, enjoys school, speaks three languages and is just a happy-go-lucky kid. He's not as much into sports, but he's into movies, Lego and things like that; he's a blast to be around."

Rod Crane

As part of the program, Crane and Sandro get together a couple of times a month, and their interactions can be as competitive as going bowling or as simple as just grabbing a bite to eat.

“It’s nice to have Rod in my life,” says Sandro. “I look up to him, he’s a great guy. We text back and forth and go do things together. It’s pretty cool to be friends.”

Considering he went into this adventure without any prior knowledge, Crane is happy with the way the relationship has evolved.

"I didn't know what I was getting into. My only idea of Big Brothers [Big] Sisters came from an episode of The Simpsons," says Crane with a chuckle. "Not only is it nice to give back to the community, but I love watching him grow. He has really come out of his shell and become his own individual."

Three years on and despite not being much of a sports fan, Sandro and Crane have become fast friends. Sandro, who is now in Grade 8, has taken a liking to the National Para Hockey Team, following it wherever it goes, including watching the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing.

“Knowing someone on the ice is a cool feeling,” Sandro added. “I’ve gone to watch Rod live a few times and now that I know what it is, I think para hockey is super entertaining. After games, I try and text him and congratulate him, but I make sure I don’t critique him too hard.”

Although it’s just an organizational name, Crane feels the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is comparable to having your own siblings.

"[Sandro] knows I'm here to talk and for him when he needs it,” says Crane. “He's in Grade 8 and just learning how to communicate, so sometimes he takes advantage of that opportunity to open up, but other times it's as simple as just a check-in text message where he asks if I'm good and vice versa. I take a lot of pride in being there for him, and I think it gives his mom some peace of mind as a single parent that he has a strong male influence in his life."

Sandro will soon have another major tournament to keep tabs on as Crane and his Canadian teammates are preparing to host the World Para Hockey Championship beginning May 31 in Moose Jaw, Sask.

"I've made a friend for life," adds Crane. He knows I am here to support him in whatever he's doing, and I know I have a fan at home cheering for me."

Canada vs. United States

Para Worlds Preview: Canada vs. United States

Sunday, May 12 | 5:30 p.m. MT | Calgary, Alberta | Gold Medal Game

Jason La Rose
|
May 12, 2024

This one’s for all the marbles. The 2024 World Para Hockey Championship comes to a close Sunday at WinSport Arena with an all-North American matchup for gold as Canada’s National Para Hockey Team takes on the United States.

Last Game

Canada survived a semifinal thriller, getting goals 84 seconds apart from Micah Kovacevich and Dominic Cozzolino early in the third period to earn a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over China on Friday night. Tyler McGregor added two assists for the Canadians.

The Americans had a nail-biter of their own in Friday’s first semifinal, getting the go-ahead goal from Malik Jones with 7:01 remaining to earn a 3-1 win over Czechia and a chance to defend their world title. Chris Douglas scored the other two goals for the U.S.

Last Meeting

The Canadians and Americans have met 10 times this season, most recently in the finale of a brief two-game series in Calgary in early April. Liam Hickey scored for Canada, but the Americans got a goal and an assist from Josh Misiewicz and the game-winner from Declan Farmer to leave the Canadians with a 4-1 defeat.

What to Watch

Adam Kingsmill continues to be an absolute workhorse for the Canadians this season; the Smithers, B.C., product has appeared in 17 of the 20 games played by Canada’s National Para Hockey Team this season and was terrific in the semifinals. After having faced just 11 shots across his first two starts, Kingsmill turned away 14 of 15 on Friday night, keeping the Canadians in the game as they looked to break through the Chinese defence and erase an early deficit. Not bad for a netminder who wasn’t part of the Canadian roster a year ago at Para Worlds and had just 10 international appearances on his résumé entering this season.

The American offence starts and ends with Farmer. The 26-year-old is once again at the top of the tournament scoring chart, posting 19 points (10-9—19) in four games, including a four-goal game in the Day 1 win over Slovakia and an eight-point effort in a win over China in the prelim finale. But the most important play the Tampa native has made all tournament long might not have come with the puck on his stick; with the U.S. clinging to a one-goal lead late in its semifinal with the Czechs, Farmer sprawled across the goal line to deny Czech captain Radek Zelinka and ensure he would have a shot at a fifth world championship.

A Look Back

The head-to-head history between the Canadians and Americans is very close, with the U.S. holding a narrow 66-59-1 advantage.

The Americans have had the upper hand as of late; the last win for Canada came back on Oct. 29, 2021, when Anton Jacobs-Webb scored the winner 13 seconds into the third period, helping the Canadians earn a 4-2 victory in the opener of a two-game series in the St. Louis suburbs.

It’s the seventh time the rivals will meet for Para Worlds gold, and the seventh in a row. Canada has won two of those finals, claiming a pair of world titles on Korean ice – 2013 in Goyang and 2017 in Gangneung.

All-time record: United States leads 66-59-1 (13-8 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 243
United States goals: 278

View More

Canada wins gold at 2024 World Para Hockey Championship

Canadians capture first gold medal at Para Worlds since 2017

NR.033.24
|
May 12, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta – Canada’s National Para Hockey Team has won gold at the World Para Hockey Championship for the first time since 2017, defeating the United States 2-1 in Sunday’s gold medal game at WinSport Arena.

Adam Kingsmill (Smithers, BC)
turned in a sensational performance in the Canadian goal, making 24 saves and earning Player of the Game honours.

The Canadians wasted no time in opening the scoring; Dominic Cozzolino (Mississauga, ON) tucked in his seventh goal of the tournament off a rebound from a Rob Armstrong (Erin, ON) shot just 35 seconds into the game, the lone goal of the first period.

“Scoring that early felt amazing. It was our plan to come out and get an early start, but it could have been any one of the guys in our locker room that scored, I was just in the right place at the right time,” Cozzolino said.We put a lot of pride in selling out to play good defence, and that win is a testament to every guy in on our team. This is an amazing feeling; it is what you dream of as a kid. This feels so good right now.”

Anton Jacobs-Webb (Gatineau, QC) doubled the Canadian lead off a behind-the-net feed from captain Tyler McGregor (Forest, ON) with 5:54 remaining in the second period for the eventual game-winning goal.

“I had the same mindset for every game. Our head coach Russ Herrington has brought us through with a strong mindset, so I think everyone on our team was able to play freely today,” Kingsmill said. “I did not see the puck very often because my teammates kept blocking shots. They made the game easy for me. I feel great, my whole family is here. I cannot help but smile. I do not have words to sum it all up right now, I think it will take a little while before I can do that.”

For a full game summary and recap, please visit HockeyCanada.ca.

“We needed to be ready for the day that things aligned for us – that is our responsibility. I have to credit our guys for showing patience and allowing the weight of the game to not become an impact on their performance,” said head coach Russ Herrington (Unionville, ON). “Props to the Calgary community for coming out tonight and spending Mother’s Day evening here cheering on Team Canada. I really felt like that energy helped us for sure, and you could certainly feel the pride from the crowd oozing into our bench and carried on the ice.”

Following the game, Cozzolino was named the Top Forward of the tournament.

Canada finished first in Group B with a perfect 3-0 record in the preliminary round with wins over Japan (19-0), Italy (10-0) and Czechia (5-1). Canada then booked its spot in the gold medal game with a 2-1 semifinal victory over China.

In 13 appearances, Canada has captured five gold medals at the World Para Hockey Championship (2000, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2024), in addition to four silver (2015, 2019, 2021, 2023) and three bronze (1996, 2009, 2012).

For more information on Hockey Canada and Canada’s National Para Hockey Team, please visit HockeyCanada.ca or follow through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

View More
Canada vs. Sweden

Para Worlds Preview: Canada vs. China

Friday, May 10 | 5:30 p.m. MT | Calgary, Alberta | Semifinal

Jason La Rose
|
May 10, 2024

It’s on to the playoffs for Canada’s National Para Hockey Team, which takes on China in the second semifinal Friday at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship.

Last Game

Canada closed out a perfect preliminary round with a 5-1 win over Czechia on Tuesday night. Tyler McGregor finished with a pair of goals – including the game-winner just 11 seconds into the second period – as did James Dunn. Liam Hickey added a goal and two assists, while Dominic Cozzolino had three helpers.

The Chinese finished out their prelim schedule with a 10-0 loss to the United States on Tuesday afternoon. After scoring 10 goals in each of their first two games to earn a semifinal spot, China managed just three shots against the Americans. Wei Wang finished with 20 saves in the Chinese goal.

Last Meeting

The Canadians and Chinese met for the first time ever at the 2023 Para Hockey Cup in Quispamsis, New Brunswick, last December. After scoring a 4-1 win in the tournament opener, Canada earned a 6-0 semifinal victory on the back of a McGregor hat trick and four assists from Cozzolino.

What to Watch

Auren Halbert has been terrific in front of the hometown fans in Calgary, contributing a goal and three assists in three prelim games. The 21-year-old also shares the team lead (alongside McGregor and Hickey) with a +15 mark. And while the Cozzolino-Hickey-McGregor triumvirate has posted a ridiculous 45 points (20-25—45) between them, the Canadians are getting contributions from up and down the lineup – eight of the nine forwards and all four defencemen averaged at least a point per game in the preliminary round.

While the offence dried up against the Americans, China was all over the scoresheet in shutout wins over Korea and Slovakia. And it was offence by committee – five players (Shen Yi Feng, Zhang Zheng, Zhu Zhan Fu, Tian Jin Tao, Li Hong Guan) posted at least five points in the two wins, while Song Xiao Dong scored a team-high five goals. In goal, Ji Yan Zhao was perfect between the pipes, turning aside all 13 shots he faced in the two wins.

A Look Back

Nothing to look back at that hasn’t already been mentioned above. Two games in Quispamsis, two wins for Canada.

All-time record: Canada leads 2-0
Canada goals: 10
China goals: 1

View More

A place to belong

Since 2011, the Calgary Sledge Hockey Association has been creating opportunities – and building Team Canada athletes like Auren Halbert along the way

Lee Boyadjian
|
May 09, 2024

Smiles, laughter and pure joy. The first time getting on the ice for anyone who loves the game quickly becomes a core memory. But for Auren Halbert, it was so much more.

“It was the first time I'd ever had a competitive outlet, and to be among other people with similar disabilities, it was just incredible,” says the 22-year-old, who was born without a femur in his left leg.

Playing at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship on home ice in Calgary is special for Auren. He played the preliminary round in front a sizeable contingent of family and friends, most with a direct connection to the Calgary Sledge Hockey Association (CSHA), the launching point of his career.

“We've had a great run of Team Canada men’s players that have come through our organization: Cody Dolan, Zach Lavin, Auren and Adam Kingsmill,” says Alan Halbert, president of the CSHA and proud dad to Auren. “But we're not here to build everybody into Team Canada players, we’re here to build people into the best versions of themselves.

“We just want to go out and have fun.”

The CSHA has had a presence in the Stampede City since the 1980s, but has grown from about 20 players to more than 80 since officially incorporating in 2011, with more than 20 coaches and volunteers giving support. There are programs for players of any age, skill and ability level.

Teams are divided by age and skill level, with players under 18 years old making up the junior team (Venom) before graduating to the intermediate team (Stingers), though high-performance athletes may transition through the levels more quickly. The senior team (Scorpions) is the highest level available and competes provincially or even nationally.

The senior team wasn’t always the powerhouse it has developed into, and a decade ago Alan had to learn the sport himself to help with the roster.

“At that time, I was naïve. I was like ‘Can I play? It’s kind of a disability sport.’ But now everybody is in there, it’s so inclusive,” he explains, adding that he has seen teams built as able-bodied friends and family support a loved-one with a disability.

“He started a couple years after I did and at first he was definitely a better player than I was,” Auren says of his dad with a laugh. “That definitely helped with my competitiveness; I just had to prove to my dad that I was a better player than he was.”

While there is no question the younger Halbert has become the stronger of the two, it is the dedication of Alan and his wife, Ashley, to the CSHA that has had a major impact on his own commitment to the game.

“It’s honestly unbelievable the amount of effort [my parents] have put into the organization,” Auren says. “It’s just super awesome to be able to have such good support in the city.

“It’s pretty inspiring to see how passionate [my parents] are about this.”

Alan has held just about every role within the association: athlete, coach, board member and treasurer. He took on the presidency in 2017 but shortly after was relocated to Pittsburgh for work. With no one else interested in the position, he remained at the helm, working remotely long before that was the norm. Seven years later, Alan is still president and continues to look for ways to grow the CSHA.

“We are kind of on the forefront of always trying to expand the sport, not only within Calgary, but we help a lot of the surrounding areas and provinces as well,” Alan explains. “We have a really great rapport with a lot of teams that we were playing as Auren was growing up, and they were just creating their programs… so they wanted to do something and we're there to help them or just to play.”

Auren also remains active with the CSHA, practicing and sometimes playing with the senior team. He also hopes to help with a summer camp this year “just to get out and teach people what I know.”

But first, the young defenceman has to close out his fifth season with Canada’s National Para Hockey Team with his fourth Para Worlds, in the same rink where he saw Team Canada play for the first time 13 years ago.

“In Auren’s first season, we kind of got going, hit the ground running and within a couple of months the World Sledge Hockey Challenge was [in Calgary],” Alan remembers. “I think he ended up on the ice as a flag-bearer, so got really exposed and that fueled his fire from a young age.

“It’s kind of come full circle.”

Auren knows this Para Worlds is his opportunity to create that same drive in a young athlete and bring new fans to the game. And while that motivates his play, he is eager to put on a show for the people who have supported him from the beginning.

“I think it'll be the first time a lot of my family have seen me play at this level, so it’s going to be pretty meaningful to be able to show them all I can do,” Auren says. “To have people I know in the stands and to know that they're all cheering for me and maybe hear a couple chants from them in the crowd… this will definitely be one of the greatest moments of all time for me.”

View More
Canada vs. Sweden

Para Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Czechia

Tuesday, May 7 | 5 p.m. MT | Calgary, Alberta | Preliminary Round

Jason La Rose
|
May 07, 2024

First place in Group B is on the line Tuesday night when Canada’s National Para Hockey Team closes out the preliminary round against Czechia in a battle of unbeaten teams at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship.

Last Game

Canada continued its offensive roll Sunday against Italy, reaching double digits for the second time in as many games in a 10-0 victory. Tyler McGregor led the charge with four goals and an assist, while Liam Hickey added two goals and four assists to take over the tournament scoring lead with 13 points (5-8—13) in two games.

The Czechs also made it two wins in as many tries Sunday, posting a 5-0 victory over Japan. Filip Vesely scored twice and added an assist, and Vaclav Hecko chipped in with a goal and a helper. Martin Kudela made eight saves for the shutout for the defending bronze medallists.

Last Meeting

Five months ago, the Canadians and Czechs clashed in preliminary-round play at the 2023 Para Hockey Cup in Quispamsis, New Brunswick. Dominic Cozzolino scored twice in the second period and Anton Jacobs-Webb rounded out the scoring in the third as Canada earned a 3-0 win.

What to Watch

He did get a lot of the headlines, but Tyrone Henry was in the spotlight Sunday night as he played his 100th game with Canada’s National Para Hockey Team. The Ottawa native has long been known for his stalwart defensive play, but he’s been all over the scoresheet through two games; after recording 17 assists across his first 98 games, he had six on the weekend in Calgary, including five in the opening win over Japan on Sautrday. The two-time Paralympian became the 14th player to reach the century mark with Team Canada.

Radek Zelinka leads from the back end for the Czechs; he was named Best Defenceman a year ago in Moose Jaw after scoring three goals to help the Czechs to bronze, and he has three assists through two games in Calgary. Kudela is a workhorse in the Czech goal; he played every second at the 2023 Para Worlds, and has been between the pipes for both games so far in 2024, turning aside 12 of 13 shots in wins over the Italians and Japanese.

A Look Back

Canada is perfect against the Czechs, winning all 16 of their meetings since 2009.

The biggest win came in the prelims at the 2021 Para Worlds on Czech ice in Ostrava, when Tyler McGregor and Zach Lavin contributed hat tricks to a 10-0 Canadian win. McGregor finished with five points in that one, while Billy Bridges chipped in with four assists.

All-time record: Canada leads 16-0
Canada goals: 63
Czechia goals: 4

View More
Canada vs. Sweden

Para Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Italy

Sunday, May 5 | 5 p.m. MT | Calgary, Alberta | Preliminary Round

Jason La Rose
|
May 05, 2024

Canada’s National Para Hockey Team is right back to action at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship on Sunday, taking on Italy in the second of its three preliminary-round games at WinSport Arena.

Last Game

Canada flexed its offensive muscle in its tournament opener Saturday, scoring 10 goals in the first period en route to a 19-0 win over Japan. Dominic Cozzolino finished with four goals and four assists, and Adam Dixon, Liam Hickey and Tyler McGregor all had hat tricks for the Canadians, who had their most profilic offensive performance since coming under the Hockey Canada umbrella in 2004.

The Italians closed out Day 1 at WinSport Arena with a 4-1 loss to Czechia. Nils Larch scored the lone goal on a third-period power play, while Sandro Stillitano was terrific in a 28-save effort in the Italian goal.

Last Meeting

The Canadians and Italians last clashed in preliminary-round play at the 2022 Para Hockey Cup in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, an 8-0 win for Canada. James Dunn paced the offence with a hat trick and an assist, while Tyler McGregor netted a pair of goals as the Canadians racked up 48 shots on goal.

What to Watch

How about the top line? Cozzolino, Hickey and McGregor dominated the scoresheet against the Japanese, combining for 10 goals and 22 points – in addition to Cozzolino’s effort mentioned above, Hickey and McGregor each had a hat trick and three assists. Big numbers are nothing new for the trio – McGregor (11-10—21 in 16 GP) and Cozzolino (6-12—18 in 16 GP) were Canada’s top scorers this season, while Hickey (4-2—6 in 11 GP) found his game towards the end of the season after missing almost a year through injury.

Age is just a number for Stillitano. The goaltender – who will celebrate his 55th birthday next month – had another standout performance on the world stage in the opener against the Czechs. A year ago in Moose Jaw, the Italian puck-stopper was named Best Goaltender by the tournament directorate after posting a 2.11 goals-against average and a tournament-best .906 save percentage. The four-time Paralympian is playing in his 11th world championship.

A Look Back

Thirteen games, 13 wins for Canada in the head-to-head history, outscoring the Italians 87-3.

The last meeting at Para Worlds came back in 2017 in South Korea; Hickey and Billy Bridges recorded two goals and two assists in a 7-0 win for the Canadians, who ended that tournament by winning their fourth and most recent world title.

All-time record: Canada leads 13-0
Canada goals: 87
Italy goals: 3

View More
Canada vs. Sweden

Para Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Japan

Saturday, May 4 | 5 p.m. MT | Calgary, Alberta | Preliminary Round

Jason La Rose
|
May 04, 2024

Canada’s National Para Hockey Team is set to drop the puck at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship, welcoming Japan to WinSport Arena on Saturday to get preliminary-round play started in Group B.

Last Game

Canada closed out its brief two-game series against the United States with a 4-1 loss on April 5 on the same Calgary ice that will host Para Worlds. Liam Hickey provided the lone goal for the Canadians, who got 16 saves from Adam Kingsmill in defeat.

Results from the 2023-24 season are scarce for the Japanese, so let’s go back to the 2023 Pool B Para Worlds, when they booked their place in Pool A with an unbeaten run in Astana, Kazakhstan. They capped the tournament with an 8-0 win over Finland in their round-robin finale, getting two goals and two assists from captain Masaharu Kumagai.

Last Meeting

You have to go all the way back to the prelim opener at the 2015 worlds in Buffalo, when Canada romped to its second-biggest victory ever, 17-0. Greg Westlake – who is on the Canadian staff as an assistant coach in Calgary – finished with five goals and three assists, Brad Bowden added three goals and five helpers and Canada scored 12 goals in the opening 15 minutes.

What to Watch

Tyler McGregor loves the big stage. The Canadian captain has led or co-led Canada in scoring at each of the last three world championships – in 2019 (6-7—13), 2021 (8-3—11) and 2023 (4-6—10) – and he finished second to Adam Dixon in 2017 (12-5—17). McGregor comes into Para Worlds needing just three goals to pass Bowden for the third-most in Team Canada history (128).

Kumagai is the offensive star for Japan. He led the way a year ago in Astana with 11 goals and six assists in five games, including a seven-goal, eight-point outing against Great Britain, and his totals don’t include a crucial goal in the shootout against Slovakia, a win that all but clinched a place in Pool A for the Asian side.

A Look Back

Canada has owned the head-to-head history, winning 22 of 23 games and outscoring Japan 164-18.

Remember the note above about the 17-0 win in 2015 being the SECOND-biggest ever? The largest margin of victory for Canada came in 2010 – an 18-0 rout in Rochester, New York. Dixon led the charge with three goals and three assists for the Canadians, who racked up 53 shots on goal.

All-time record: Canada leads 22-1
Canada goals: 164
Japan goals: 18

View More

In my own words: Adam Dixon

The Team Canada veteran talks about the summers at Campfire Circle that changed his life, and why he’s still giving back to the camp as a volunteer

Adam Dixon
|
April 19, 2024

Growing up and going to school in Midland, Ontario, I was always The Kid With Cancer.

I mean, it makes sense. Midland is only 17,000 people, and there weren’t many kids who had cancer.

I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma when I was 10. It’s a rare type of cancer that typically attacks the bones in your legs and pelvis. Mine was in my right tibia. It was removed and replaced with a donor bone, along with a metal plate and multiple screws.

So I was a kid, and I had cancer.

But when I went to Campfire Circle, I was so much more than that.

Campfire Circle is a summer camp for kids with cancer, or those who have been affected by cancer – like kids who have lost siblings. Everybody was The Kid With Cancer, so your other traits got to show through. I was The Athletic Kid, I was The Fun Kid. It was my little two-week escape every summer.

I have no idea how my parents found the camp, I just remember I was signed up and on the bus. And the six summers I spent there changed my life.

At camp, I was able to just be myself. I wasn't the kid that was timekeeping the hockey games because I couldn't play anymore. I was the kid that was involved. I was the kid that was running around, having a good time, doing stuff that my mom would never have allowed me to do at home. But at camp, where there are doctors on site, there's a little bit more freedom. If I break my leg, everything's going to be fine.

The camp is so well set up for people that were in my situation. You could have chemotherapy at camp. It's accessible, so you can do stuff that's not an option for most kids at home.

It’s a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one. The camp is in Muskoka, so you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place. And just to be outdoors all day, yes please. We'd play road hockey. There's a giant slip and slide. And most of all, it’s just the time spent with your fellow campers pulling pranks on the other campers or the other cabin groups.

Again, it changed my life.

For a lot of years, para hockey was everything. All of my vacation time went to hockey. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’ve been able to travel, win world championships, play at the Paralympics. I’ve spent most of the last two decades wearing the Hockey Canada logo on my chest and representing my country. Amazing.

But after the Paralympics in 2018, I started focusing on other things in my life. And one of those was Campfire Circle. I had signed up to volunteer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the camp was shut down for a few summers because it’s a very vulnerable group.

As soon as we were able to go, I was back. I've been there for two summers now as a full-time volunteer. My partner and I are both volunteers. We've done some weekends at camps as well, which is a fun little way to escape the grind of life.

I was a cabin counsellor my first year and I also ran the wood shop, helping kids stay safe. I can just imagine people I know reading this and laughing… I’m basically a giant kid. Who would trust me with sharp tools?

It was a little daunting at first, but I figured it out. Last summer, they needed someone to help out with a whitewater canoe trip. That's something I've never done before, but they needed someone, so I'm in. Just point and shoot, right? I ended up spending two weeks on the French River. It was outside of my abilities, but we figured it out. This summer I'm back as a cabin counsellor, so I'm just a stay-at-home parent, basically. I just run with the kids all day, so that's pretty fun.

I do have one specific goal for this year, though. My birthday is August 13, so when I was a kid I’d always have my birthday at camp. When you're a camper you get to pick three counsellors to throw in the lake. As a counsellor, I have yet to be cool enough that I get thrown in the lake, so this summer I have to figure out which kids have birthdays and then really pester them so they'll throw me in the lake.

I really want to get chucked in the lake.

One thing I’ve been asked, as someone who is “in charge,” is if there’s pressure on the counsellors. Some people may think that there’s this huge need to make it an unbelievable experience because of what these kids have been through, but it just happens naturally. The kids have fought cancer. That's the worst thing that's probably ever going to happen to them. Going to camp, that's easy. They create their own fun. Some of it is built into the camp atmosphere, sure, but when that thing that makes you “different” at home no longer means as much, you're just yourself and that's pretty cool.

I’ll admit, sometimes volunteering can be a bit selfish. Getting away from society for two weeks is a great little break. I can be silly, I can have fun, I can not be an adult for 14 days. But once I’m there, really, it’s about the kids.

I know how much fun I had when I was 11 years old, and I want to bring that same amount of fun to the campers. I think about when I was a kid and I think about all the counsellors that I really looked up to, and I try to bring a lot of the same energy. Does it work? Who knows, you don't get feedback from the campers. They just make fun of you. But yeah, I think I do a pretty good job.

I’m going to finish with a plea of sorts. Volunteer. Get out and give back. It could be a summer camp. It could be a hockey tournament (I hear the World Juniors are coming back to Canada this winter). It could be anything. It’s about making a difference.

There are so many events around the world that can only run because of volunteers. It's an incredible way to get out and meet like-minded people, people that want to give back to their community.

So why not volunteer? It's awesome. But don’t take my word for it… get out and do it!

View More

National Para Hockey Team roster named for 2024 World Para Hockey Championship

17 players will go for gold on home ice in Calgary

NR.024.24
|
April 18, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta – With less than a month until the puck drops, Hockey Canada has announced the 17 players who will wear the Maple Leaf with Canada’s National Para Hockey Team and compete for a gold medal at the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship, May 4-12 at WinSport Arena in Calgary.

The roster – two goaltenders, five defenceman and 10 forwards - was selected by head coach Russ Herrington (Unionville, ON) and assistant coaches Mike Fountain (Gravenhurst, ON), Boris Rybalka (Vernon, BC) and Greg Westlake (Oakville, ON).  

“We have been working hard to grow as a team since our initial evaluation camp in September. All of our players have shown resiliency and perseverance this season, which has made it challenging - in the best of ways - as staff to assemble this roster,” said Herrington. “Representing Canada on home ice is a special opportunity and we are confident this group will put in the necessary efforts to make Canadians proud from coast to coast to coast.”

The journey to the world championship began last September in Calgary, where 30 players were invited to evaluation camp. The competition schedule included the IPH Cup in Ostrava, Czechia, the Para Hockey Cup in Quispamsis, New Brunswick, and two series against the United States in Minot, North Dakota, and Calgary.

The roster features 12 players who won a silver medal at the 2023 World Para Hockey Championship (Boily, Burnett, Cozzolino, Dixon, Dunn, Halbert, Henry, Jacobs-Webb, Kovacevich, Lelièvre, McGregor, Smith), and 14 who captured a silver medal at the 2023 Para Hockey Cup (Armstrong, Burnett, Cozzolino, Dixon, Dunn, Halbert, Henry, Hickey, Jacobs-Webb, Kingsmill, Kovacevich, Lavin, McGregor, Smith).

The support staff that will work with Canada’s National Para Hockey Team during the 2024 World Para Hockey Championship are:

  • Assistant coach, mindset and leadership Liam Heelis (Georgetown, ON)
  • Video coach Steve Arsenault (Spruce Grove, AB)
  • Equipment managers Grant Boswall (Cornwall, PE) and Tyler Jay (Charlottetown, PE)
  • Athletic therapist Tracy Meloche (Essex, ON)
  • Team physician Dr. Danielle Kelton (Guelph, ON)
  • Hockey operations coordinator Hannah Curlock (Calgary, AB)
  • ​Communications coordinator ​Jacob Wolfenden (Hamilton, ON)

Canada will be joined by Czechia, Italy and Japan in Group B at the world championship, while Group A features China, Korea, Slovakia and the United States.

Canada opens its preliminary-round schedule on Saturday, May 4 at 5 p.m. MT against Japan. It will face Italy on May 5 before closing out prelim action against Czechia on May 7.

Fans can guarantee their seat by purchasing a full-event ticket package for as low as $99 at HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets.

All 20 tournament games will be available for free via livestream at HockeyCanada.ca.

Canada has captured four gold medals at the World Para Hockey Championship (2000, 2008, 2013, 2017), in addition to four silver (2015, 2019, 2021, 2023) and three bronze (1996, 2009, 2012).

For more information on Hockey Canada and Canada’s National Para Hockey Team, please visit HockeyCanada.ca or follow through social media on Facebook, X and Instagram.

View More
Susan Sloan wearing a shirt that says Volunteer in front of a balloon arch.

The gratitude for volunteering

After making the choice to begin volunteering to make friends in a new town, Susan Sloan can’t imagine what her life would be like without giving back to her community

Shannon Coulter
|
April 18, 2024

Susan Sloan can’t imagine her life without volunteering. In fact, she feels her life would be the complete opposite of what it is now if she hadn’t started donating her time.

Throughout her life, Sloan has had a variety of different jobs, from working in a bakery to an IT specialist and a fitness instructor at the YMCA. After moving to Orleans, Ontario—a community in the east end of Ottawa—in the early 2000s, Sloan took a one-year contact with Volunteer Canada that would change the course of her life.

“I thought since I’m working as their membership manager, I probably should know a little bit more about this volunteering thing,” she says. “But I had already decided that volunteering was the route that I wanted to take, really just to start making friends because I literally had none.”

Her first volunteer position was with Canadian Heritage to help with their Winter Lights Across Canada event. From there, she learned about Winterlude in Ottawa and decided to volunteer for it as well. By then she was on a roll, so she signed up to help with the Canada Day festivities.

“Those were my signature events—every year, with the exception of COVID, you would find me at all three of those events come hell or high water,” she says. “That was my core, and they are still my core to this day: 22 years later, I’m still volunteering with Canadian Heritage.”

Susan Sloan lies down in front to pose with a group of volunteers at a Canadian Heritage event in Ottawa

Interspersed between her three core events, Sloan got involved in “little adventures” to explore new volunteer experiences in areas she was interested in.

“I loved sports, so I would pretty much put myself into any event that needed volunteers,” she explains. “In Ottawa, it’s like a laundry list of opportunities; you could be busy every weekend starting on Thursday.”

She began with a volleyball tournament, then taught Zumba at Relay for Life. Soon her volunteer experiences began snowballing into more new opportunities in sports.

“Sports has always been my happy place,” she says. “Being in a small community and in Ottawa, once you are known and you’re affiliated with certain events, you start to get asked to work other events and help out.

“I’ve had some amazing opportunities that I would never have had anything to do with had I not been a volunteer.”

When Canada’s National Women’s Team came to Ottawa in 2021 for the Rivalry Series, Sloan volunteered to help with the Olympic jersey reveal and managed guests coming into the game.

“It was really delightful working with Hockey Canada,” she says. “I really appreciated and respected the respect that we received, and the gratefulness for just doing something that was so minor.”

Later this year, the 2025 IIHF World Junior Championship will be hosted in Ottawa. Through her connections gained from volunteering and her reputation in the community, Sloan was presented with a new opportunity: to become the volunteer co-chair for World Juniors. And coming from a family that loves hockey and watches the tournament every year, she agreed.

“The fact that I was asked to do [World Juniors] … they chose me. That was a choice and to be that choice is probably one of the most rewarding things in the world. And none of this would have happened had it not been for volunteering.”

Susan Sloan poses beside a Hockey Canada welcome sign

When the puck drops in December, Sloan is most excited for the tourists and guests to experience what Ottawa has to offer.

“It’s so amazing because as volunteers, you’re in the chaos of everything,” she says. “I love the diversity it brings to the city. It brings a certain energy that the only way you’re going to know what it’s like is if you’re there. It’s amazing to be a part of something.

“People are coming in from all over the world, and you get a chance to mingle with them. You get a chance to show up for your city.”

With her experience in so many volunteer positions, Sloan has a thorough understanding of the value every volunteer brings to the table.

“The synergy that’s created when you are with like-minded people is magical. You have volunteers who, without them, no event would happen,” she says. “IIHF wouldn’t run without their volunteers. Canada Day would not run without its volunteers.”

As her experience allowed her to help others begin their volunteer journeys, Sloan has seen people blossom in ways they never thought was possible. And for Sloan, there are no words to describe the gratitude she has for making the decision to begin volunteering 22 years ago.

“Everything that I am, everything that I will be, is because of volunteering,” she says. “There are not many things in our lives that we put this much effort into that the rewards are amplified upon receipt. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without volunteering.”

Interested in volunteering when the world comes back to Ottawa this winter? Registration for the TELUS World Juniors Volunteer Program is now open!

View More

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

Videos
Photos
play_logo
MWC: Highlights – CAN 4, CZE 3 OT (Preliminary)
play_logo
MWC: Remembering the wild ride in Riga
play_logo
Centennial: Highlights – Collingwood 1, Melfort 0 (Championship)
play_logo
MWC: Highlights – CAN 3, SUI 2 (Preliminary)
play_logo
MWC: Highlights – CAN 5, FIN 3 (Preliminary)
play_logo
NMT: Evason brings passion and pride to Prague
play_logo
MWC: Highlights – CAN 4, NOR 1 (Preliminary)
play_logo
Calgary Canucks (AJHL) vs. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL)| Centennial Cup
play_logo
Miramichi Timberwolves (MHL) vs. Collingwood Blues (OJHL)| Centennial Cup
play_logo
Centennial: From brothers to teammates
play_logo
Navan Grads (CCHL) vs. Miramichi Timberwolves (MHL) | Centennial Cup
play_logo
Winkler Flyers (MJHL) vs. Calgary Canucks (AJHL) | Centennial Cup
Schedule
HC Logo
Prague & Ostrava, Czechia
Date: May 10 to 26
HC Logo
Edmonton, Alta., Canada
Date: Aug 3 to 10