The coaching staff of the Sarnia Lady Sting Atom "C" Hockey Club wanted its players to understand that playing hockey this season would be much more than just the on-ice fundamentals of passing, shooting and scoring.
"We wanted the girls to know that being part of a team also means giving back to the community," said co-coach Courtney Kerslake.
For that reason, she said, the team was involved in a variety of community service events this season, including participating in a fundraising walk for Crohn's and Colitis, selling 50/50 tickets for breast and ovarian cancer, collecting 500 pieces of winter wear for the inn of the Good Shepherd and taking part in Bluewater Health's Winter Wonderland event.
The team will also be selling daffodils for the local chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society on Friday, April 4 at Sarnia's Walmart location.
"It's been great for team building," said Manager Leanne Vidler. "A lot of success the girls have had on the ice is because of what they've done off the ice."
And that passion has reaped another benefit.
The Sarnia squad, made up of girls in grades four and five, has been chosen as one of five teams in their age groups from Ontario to train with the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching staff at the Air Canada Centre as part of the Ford Drills and Skills compeition.
There they will take part in a Leafs practice, including a yet to be determined member of the Maple Leafs alumni, do dryland training, hear guest speakers, learn about proper nutrition and tour the ACC.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience," said Kerslake. "The girls are very excited."
"The players have gotten closer this year because of all our extra work they've done," said Kerslake. "And the parents have grown closer too."
That new found closeness has led the parents to rent the Sarnia Sting team bus to transport the team to Toronto for their big day on Sunday, April 6.
And although the four girls chosen to speak on behalf of their teammates didn't have much to say during a recent interview about the trip, the faces of Paige Vidler, Kayden Hayes, Emma Regimbald and Isabelle Thiffeault more than made up for their lack of words.
"Are you looking forward to the trip and going the Air Canada Centre and skating on the same ice as the Maple Leafs skate on?, I asked.
Their eyes lit up and smiles formed from ear to ear.
"Yeah," they said in unison.
The team has also qualified for the Ontario Women's Hockey Association provincial playdowns scheduled for April 10-13 in the GTA.
- Barry Wright