The Sicamous Eagles have been working with the U11 and U9 Junior Eagles teams, helping them spread their wings and develop skills to become better hockey players.
Eagles assistant coach Erik Tuff started with the team in September and has been working with head coach Nick Deschenes and the two teams to grow the relationship between them, to have the older Eagles teach what they know to the younger players.
On Monday evenings, the KIJHL players get on the ice with the U11 and U9 players, working on expanding the juniors’ skill sets, preparing them to play at a higher level, said Tuff.
The program began in January and continues until the end of the hockey season, with additional lessons and camps planned for the summer.
Eagles’ goalie Gage Reimer has helped coach the younger teams for the last two seasons and the program is expanding to involve more players and skills.
“The skills training is one way for us to give back to the community, which we love to do,” said Tuff.
“We do a lot of different things, and not everybody plays hockey, but this gives back to those younger players and their families.”
Feedback about the program has been positive.
Tuff said the young players have been having a lot of fun and they want to come back and continue getting better when they have the older players to look up to as role models.
“It’s brought them closer to our players,” he said.
“When they come out to the Eagles’ games at home, they’re standing right there where we come out onto the ice, talking to the players they know, and it’s been good on so many different levels.”
So far, the program has focused on skating skills but will progress to stick handling and shooting to improve all important aspects of the game.
Tuff said the goal is to have the kids prepared to someday become KIJHL Eagles themselves, or accomplish whatever they want in their hockey journey.
The Junior B Eagles have enjoyed sharing their passion with the younger players.
“Many of the players are from around B.C., Alberta, so they see it as a way of giving back to the families and communities that have welcomed them here,” said Tuff.
“It’s not just giving any fan a high-five at the game, it’s someone you know and have helped, it just makes them all feel good.”
There are also three Salmon Arm Silverbacks players who billet with families in Sicamous and they have stepped in to help with the skills programs as well.
Tuff said he hopes to get all three players involved as much as possible and that they want to give back to Sicamous but their schedules are difficult to line up as the teams are in different leagues.
Tuff said anywhere he has coached, he likes to be involved in as many levels of hockey as he can.
He said Deschenes is the same way as the two of them want to use the program to make a strong KIJHL team an even stronger community force.
Tuff said the priorities are building community and drawing more kids into playing sports and staying active.
“At the end of the day, we want to grow the love of the game.”
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