For many kids meeting their hockey hero is a once in a lifetime opportunity and being taught the sport by this hero is something they would only think to dream about.
However this is what 160 kids, aged eight to 12, have been given the chance to do in Cole Harbour this week during the Sidney Crosby Hockey School. The school received 1,500 applications from around the world and Canada’s East Coast was no exception. Two of the many Nova Scotians taking part are nine-year-old Maddie McKee from Enfield and 10-year-old Connor Clemo from Hammonds Plains.
Even though both Connor and Maddie’s parents knew their children would love the camp, they didn’t think they would be chosen, knowing the school would be popular. Still, they did apply and when the families received the acceptance emails they were shocked, yet excited.
“There was a lot of jumping up and down and screaming,” said Maddie’s mom Jody MacArthur. “It’s like winning the lottery. The fact her name was drawn was great.”
As part of the camp, the kids have spent time on the ice with Crosby and other NHL players including fellow Cole Harbour native Nathan MacKinnon and Cape Breton’s Andrew MacDonald. Being able to meet and play alongside these players is something that Connor’s mom, Judy Clemo, found added a little something extra to the camp that similar events might not have.
“It’s great Sidney is on the ice with the kids; it will be a good experience,” she said.
While the camp worked on a wide range of skills, Maddie and Connor also had specific areas they wanted to concentrate on. Maddie was interested in working on unspecified issues that might not get addressed by a coach during the hockey season.
“I think I’d like to work on my own hockey skills, where I’m not with my whole team practising this summer,” she said before the camp started, while Connor mentioned he wanted to work on something he’d been having trouble with for a while.
“I just learnt how to stop on one side, so I kind of want to work on my stops,” he said.
Activities weren’t just limited to the rink. There were also a number of off-ice activities as well, including games of soccer on a nearby field. Crosby said one of the school’s mandates is to try and showcase different values to the campers. By playing another game, he said, the kids are able to see that athletes shouldn’t just be good at a sport, but actually enjoy the sport they’re playing.
“It’s just nice to change it up a bit [so] you’re not too focused on one thing; you have to find out what you enjoy,” he said. “By playing different sports, it allows you to do that.”
Since this year was a success Crosby hopes to host another camp next year, building on the experience without losing the aspects that made this first year run smoothly.
“We don’t want to sacrifice the quality and [we need to be] making sure there’s some one-on-one and making sure all of the volunteers and staff are able to work with kids without it being too big,” he said. “Really trying to balance that is the big thing, but we’ll do our best.”
The kids’ enthusiasm towards the camp experience speaks for itself. Connor has been enjoying himself and is having no problems settling in with his fellow campers.
“School is going great so far,” said Connor. “I have met new friends from around the world.”
Maddie has also been enjoying her time at the school, along with, of course, meeting Crosby and getting an autograph or two.
“Maddie says the camp is really fun and her favourite part so far has been meeting Sidney,” said MacArthur. “She got a swag bag upon registration with a hat, pin, shorts, t-shirt, jersey, water bottle, hockey socks and a puck signed by Crosby, so she was very excited about that.”
Whether the school returns or not, the goal for this week remains the same: to make sure the kids have an unforgettable experience, while learning something new.
“It’s everything I could have imagined here from the start, so it’s been a lot of fun; the kids are having a great time,” said Crosby. ”If they can take something away from this camp then we’ve done our jobs.”
For more pictures from Sidney Crosby’s hockey school, click here.