Thirteen-year-old Piper Allen, of Watson Lake, and Mike Smith, Olympic-gold-medal-winning
goalie and bonafide NHLer with the Arizona Coyotes, have two things in common: they love the game of hockey and they can’t wait to meet each other. And they will. Soon.
On August 1 and 2, Smith and other NHL players and alumni will be in Watson Lake to offer a hockey camp for Yukon youth. It is the 15th year of the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s Goals & Dreams program that reaches out to deserving youth around the world, to help develop the game of hockey. “I am hoping to meet Mike Smith the most,” says Allen via an email interview. “I am inspired by the fact that he is a gold medalist. “I also want to meet him because he is one of the main people who organized this event, and I really want to thank him for that.”
By phone, Smith said, “I’m really looking forward to meeting the kids in the Yukon. “On the two days, from 8 to 12, we’ll be on the ice with instruction and conversation. That will be fun to get to know the kids. “And they get to meet some NHL players and alumni. “Then we will do some fi shing at the boat launch in the afternoon and they will get a chance to get to know us and learn that we are just like them: we are just big kids who get to play in the NHL and live our dream.”
Also coming to Watson Lake will be Smith’s teammate, B.J. Crombeen, along with his father, Mike Crombeen, an alumnus of the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers. And there will be David Booth and Brent Gilchrist.
Besides instruction and encouragement, they will be leaving behind $20,000 worth of new hockey equipment, donated to the community of Watson Lake. The NHLers will find time to offer professional development for local hockey coaches along with coaching the Sergeant’s Cup recreational hockey game, which includes members of the RCMP and Watson Lake Silver Tip Oldtimers.
And there will be a community potlatch.
Allen, who plays for the Watson Lake Wolverines, is impressed with the onslaught of attention from the good people behind the Goals & Dreams program. “It is so awesome to be taught by an NHLer,” she says. “Living in a small community, we don’t get opportunities like this very often. This is a really special event for Watson. “All of the hockey players here in Watson fantasize about meeting professional hockey players, and now that we have the chance to, everybody is thrilled.”
Explaining why he is back on the road after a long season, Smith says, “This opportunity arose and it is something that is near and dear to my heart. “Now that I have a family, I have really cherished the time with the kids. “It was not so long ago that I was young kid, growing up in Verona, Ontario, looking up to professional athletes. “So, I should give some of my time to these awesome kids.”
Smith says he hasn’t played with any graduates of the Goals & Dreams program yet, but he is looking forward to it.
Good players can come from anywhere, but those from small communities, like Smith, can have a more special experience. “I feel the whole town behind me when I’ve gone to the Olympics and done well,” he says of Verona. “It feels special to me to say I come from a small town and everyone, there, has a little part in what I’ve done.”
Smith says he is also looking forward to meeting the volunteers in the Yukon who helped pull the hockey camp together.
Helping with the event are the Watson Lake Minor Hockey Association, Watson Lake RCMP, JDS Silver, ATCO Electric Yukon, Air North, Yukon Amateur Hockey Association and Yukon community recreational staffs.