Two-time gold medallist giving back
Hockey: Canadian Olympian Meaghan Mikkelson leads three-day Okotoks camp
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 06:00 am
Okotoks female hockey left an Olympic-sized impression on one of the biggest names in the sport.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Meaghan Mikkelson gave the seal of approval to Okotoks Female Hockey Development (OFHD) after putting on the inaugural Summer Female Hockey Development Camp last weekend.
“I’ve been out to a lot of different hockey communities, seen a lot of different organizations and Okotoks is top-notch for sure,” said Mikkelson in between sessions on Sunday morning. “Being a part of a hockey community there is a sense of family and community that you get and I felt that right when we got here on the first day.
“Female hockey players are very coachable, always willing to listen and wanting to learn, they’re like sponges. It’s fun to work with players that want to get better.”
The camp, held Aug. 8-10 at the Okotoks Recreation Centre, was the brainchild of the OFHD team and president Jennifer Dustow as a means to both fundraise and foster development for the burgeoning female hockey scene in the foothills where Okotoks boasts one of the largest girls programs in the province.
It turned out to be a match made in hockey heaven.
“We always look for opportunities to give back to a sport that’s given us so much,” said Mikkelson, a 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medallist. “Female hockey camps specifically, there is not a lot out there so as soon as they asked me, it was something I wanted to be a part of. I grew up in St. Albert and we couldn’t go into the city and play. I appreciate the small communities and how close and tight knit of a group the hockey world can be in a community like this.
“It’s an honour for them to say do you want to run your own hockey camp this weekend.”
The feeling was mutual from the over 80 camp participants.
Joining Mikkelson as camp instructor was her husband Scott Reid, who boasts 12 years of pro experience as a goalie, as well as Team Canada veteran Bobbi–Jo Slusar and Calgary Inferno captain Kelsey Webster.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but you get a lot out of it,” said Bantam hockey player Danyka Culbert from High River. “It’s not just getting the skills on the ice, it’s learning about how to get ready, nutrition, little skills that are really important.
“It’s amazing coaches, Olympians. You just want to get as much info from them as you can.”
Culbert, who played for the Okotoks Bantam A Oilers last season, said there were a few pearls of wisdom in particular to take from the weekend.
“They told us you really have to expose yourself and always work your hardest and keep doing camps like this and make sure you get seen,” Culbert said.
“To go out for all the camps and tryouts you can because there is always coaches watching.
“I learned a lot about skating and how to get faster and use longer strides.”
The inaugural camp drew 85 young ladies to the ice, a number the organizers expect to improve upon significantly when it re-launches with Mikkelson’s team next summer.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Dustow said. “We foot pedalled, if we were travelling somewhere for a game or with kids in other sports we were posting posters all across the country trying to promote this event because we didn’t have the money or the sponsorship to do any of that advertising.
“Everything happens for a reason, I’m a big believer in that. We’ve got to where we are today and I think it’s only going to get better.”
After giving registration priority to local hockey players, the camp attracted young athletes from as far as Grande Prairie in the north and Saskatchewan to the east.
“Meaghan Mikkelson is kind of my idol, she’s exactly like what I want to be on and off the ice,” said Paige Grenier, who came all the way from Olds for the three-day camp.
“She comes from Alberta, not a lot of girls on the Olympic team make it out of Alberta. It shows that you don’t have to be down in Quebec or Ontario where the majority of the players come from.”
Mikkelson, a two-time NCAA champion with the University of Wisconsin Badgers with five world championship medals and seven years with Team Canada on her résumé, defied the odds with a supreme competitive spirit day in and day out.
“It was having that big goal in the back of my mind of wanting to play for Team Canada and I’m sure all those girls have that in their heads,” said Mikkelson, currently starring with teammate Natalie Spooner on CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada.
“I would think what can I do today that will help me get to that end goal.
“I would always look at it and say ‘there are 20 other girls on my team trying to do the same thing as me. What am I going to do that’s going put me ahead of them?’ Always looking for ways to work harder than everybody else and to do more than everybody else because there are thousands of girls who want to play for Team Canada.”
To find out more about Okotoks Female Hockey Development go to okotoksfemalehockey.com