Students from Walnut Park School prepare to send a cheer to the World Junior Hockey team. Tom Best photo

Road to the World Juniors starts in Smithers

Walnut Park first stop for tour promoting next year’s World Junior Championships.

It’s easy at times to get the feeling that other parts of the country and indeed the province not only forget about us but outright don’t care unless there is some special reason.

And then there is hockey. Like every other community in the country, big and small included, when it comes to hockey, we count just as much as anyone else. In fact, last week we seemed to count a bit more.

Next year’s World Junior Championships are slated to be held in Victoria and Vancouver, and BC Hockey is in the midst of generating excitement for the big event with a program called Road to the World Juniors. In fact, the whole show got it’s kick-off right here in Smithers.

BC Hockey is certainly on the road since the tour will include 39 stops that will consist of fun educational presentations for kids at the elementary school level.

Here in Smithers, the tour got underway at Walnut Park Elementary School last Monday. The actual championship cup was on display and it was exciting to see names like superstar Conner McDavid etched on the cup.

Many of the local youngsters have had some contact with high performance players such as local NHL star Dan Hamhuis, who continues to remember where he started. The BC Hockey tour hopes to expand both the knowledge of and participation in the sport. To that end, they donated two sets of floorball equipment to the school as they left.

Floorball could best be described as a game not unlike the road hockey most of us played in our youth. Last Monday, members of the Smithers Storm were on hand to help demonstrate how the equipment could be used to play the game and develop basic important hockey skills.

At the end of the event, students were lined up to give the Canadian Juniors their best cheer.

“These are future NHLers. We have the trophy here today and you can see the names like Conner McDavid, Jake Virtanan, Josh Morrisey and guys like that who have gone on. Future star NHLer’s,” said Bob Bristow, northern regional manager for BC Hockey

“It’s a partnership between the government of B.C. and BC Hockey. We leave behind the equipment for the schools that we visit. We also leave behind the World Junior Championship flag,” he said.

The school also got to perform a cheer for the team which will be able to watch it on video when they get together to prepare for the championship.

Bristow said that he was glad to see hockey doing so well in northern towns such as Smithers.

Stacie Couch, with BC Hockey communications, said that the idea behind the tour was to make the World Juniors a province-wide event and to get communities from up north all the way down to Cranbrook and over to Vancouver Island involved in the competition.

“That way the Road to the World Juniors touches so many communities,” she said.

“We’re leaving behind a set of equipment for floorball to promote healthy living and to leave a legacy behind for the Road to the World Juniors school tour.”

She explained that the idea behind floorball was essentially the same as traditional floor hockey but that the equipment was safer for the younger children who would be using it at the elementary schools they visit.

“Today we are off to Prince George and we visit two schools there. After that we go to Fort St. John,” she said.

With such a tour underway, it would be hard to get the feeling that we are being left out. Go Canada Juniors!

sports@interior-news.com

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Walnut Park School students display the World Junior Championship flag along with the event’s mascot. Tom Best photo

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