You learn a great deal from sports. I’ve played hockey my entire life and have learned hard work, respect, and how to listen through this sport. In 2018 hockey broke my heart, to hear of those young players lost in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and how hard those boys worked. I still get emotional thinking about it.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Rush Lake, Saskatchewan. In high school I grew to 6’ 4” and 250 pounds and played football. I was awarded a scholarship to Minot University in North Dakota but injured my shoulder. I was invited to play hockey as a result, for the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The greatest gift in hockey is the people who you meet and play alongside with. One of my childhood teammates was Derek Boogaard, who went on to play for the Rangers and Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. Derek suffered many concussions in his impressive career. In 2011, he passed away from an accidental drug overdose while recovering from another injury. He was just 28.
My professional hockey career was a two-year whirlwind. You grow up fast when you leave home to participate in sports. You learn to manage your money. You learn to be respectful and how to handle yourself in an unfamiliar situation. You learn teamwork, how to listen, and do your job — not unlike politics. These skills are important in my role now as a Member of Parliament.
I was billeted with a young couple in La Ronge, Jimmy and Tina Roberts. They had a curfew that was stricter than the team’s. It was their house and I valued them. The Roberts had a young family and they’d bring their children to watch the Ice Wolves. We had their son skate with the team once or twice; he was thrilled. I’ll always remember that. It has been twenty years but I still think fondly of the Roberts.
Hockey is grueling but rewarding. I remember one unsuccessful road trip that had us off the bus at 2:00 am. We had a lesson to learn. The coach told us to put our equipment back on and get on the ice for conditioning. If you don’t work hard in the game, you get to work even harder in drills.
I was only part of the SJHL for a short six weeks. From there I was sent to the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. I knew hockey was not going to be a lifelong career, but its impact was indelible.
Do you know what I remember most? The people. Just like in public life, it is always the people you remember, then and now.
(Editor’s note: the author is MP for Regina-Lewvan)