Posts in Sheldon Kennedy

THE MENTAL GAME, hockey Canada, sport, Sheldon Kennedy, sport, hockey, respect


April 24th, 2019 Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy

For Jonah Chambers, no other sport he’s played has been as challenging, both mentally and emotionally, as hockey

Scott Taylor
April 24, 2019

Jonah Chambers played volleyball and loved it, but he didn’t have to create a pre-game routine for himself. He was a decent rugby player, but he didn’t have to start his pre-game prep as early as he does at the rink.

Chambers is one of two outstanding netminders with the Calgary Buffaloes, who are representing the Pacific Region at the 2019 TELUS Cup.

Playing alongside talented Garin Bjorklund, the 17-year-old Chambers had a 1.80 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 15 regular-season games. He also played three games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Calgary Canucks.

His coach, Brent Harrison is an on-ice performance coach at Skillz, Skating and Shooting Center in Calgary. He calls Chambers, “a great teammate, who has made the Buffaloes a very successful team this season.”

“He’s a really good kid,” said Harrison. “Most importantly he’s been a good teammate. We have two very good goalies and we decided, at playoff time that we’d go with our hot goalie, Garin. Jonah didn’t play a game in the playoffs and I think that was tough for him because when Garin left to play in the [World Under-17 Hockey Challenge], Jonah stepped in and carried us while Garin was gone.

“So, we rode the other guy throughout the playoffs, but Jonah was an outstanding teammate. He led the cheers for Garin and supported him every way he could. Jonah never complained and he handled the situation really well. You can’t have a successful team without people like Jonah on your roster.”

For Jonah, who grew up in Winnipeg, started playing goal at age nine because “I wasn’t a very good player,” and arrived in Calgary as a 13-year-old who knew virtually no one in his new hometown, being a part of this tremendous Buffaloes team has made it easy to be a supportive No. 2 netminder.

“I’ve found it’s really hard for a goaltender to be mentally tough all the time,” Chambers explained. “I like to go into every game thinking that I’m going to start. I always do my pre-game prep as if I’m going to play. Even as a back-up you have to be mentally prepared to play at all times.

“I also make it a point, as best I can, to keep it loose in the room. And in warm-up, when I get into the net and Garin is just skating around, I try my best to always challenge our shooters. I do my best to stop them in order to get their compete-level up. Goaltending is so much harder mentally than anything I’ve experienced in all the other sports I’ve played so I created my own pre-game routine that I have used for the past two or three years.

“It’s hard to be a backup. Everyone wants to play and I’m no different, but we have such a good team, Garin is such a strong goaltender and we have such a great room, that it’s easier for me to accept the fact that I might not play as much as I’d like.”

If Chambers sounds like a rather exceptional, caring 17-year-old, he is. And to him, the mental game is just as important away from the rink as it is on the ice.

“When I was at St. Matthews School in Grade 9, a counselor selected me and two classmates to attend a mental health conference,” he said. “I think he chose me because I was a hockey player and (former NHLer) Sheldon Kennedy would be there.

“A lot of the speakers there were excellent, but the speaker who really grabbed me was Sheldon Kennedy. The part that really took hold of me was when he was going through all that trouble at a high level of junior hockey and yet he couldn’t or didn’t speak up about it. Not being able to speak up is something that just got to me. MORE

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Making sports safer for kids is a never-ending fight

February 19th, 2019 Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy
The Star


On Wednesday of this week in Sarnia, gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker was acquitted of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. The former national women’s team coach had been accused by a former athlete, who was deemed credible by the court, but the judge cited police errors in the course of the investigation. Brubaker walked.

Also this week, the CBC released the results of a data-driven investigation that showed that over the past 20 years, at least 222 coaches in Canadian amateur sport had been convicted of sexual offences with more than 600 victims who were under 18 at the time of the offence. Some people who knew better professed to be shocked.


“This isn’t a shock,” says Sheldon Kennedy, the founder of the Calgary & Area Child Advocacy Centre. “The centre does 150 new investigations every month, and that’s just in Calgary. And they’re talking about 20 years.”

But the CBC spurred conversation, even if the conversation was already underway. Friday afternoon, Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan was in Red Deer, with her provincial and territorial counterparts, announcing The Red Deer Declaration, which they said committed to gender equity in sport by 2024, zero tolerance to abuse, and some other principles.

“Athletes must be at the centre of everything we do,” Duncan said. “They are not commodities. They are people, and they need to be respected.”

Principles are only a start, though; check the London Declaration of 2001. This is another try. Nothing like this moves quickly. But sometimes, it moves.

It is disturbingly easy to look at the sports system in Canada and especially the United States in a vacuum and conclude something is wrong. In 2018, doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of girls in U.S. gymnastics, and the cover-up appears to have extended to both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. In Canada, Brubaker skated, but national ski coach Bernard Charest was convicted last year of 37 sex-related charges.

There are many more examples. In December of 2018, Wrestling Canada took the unusual step of making an internal report on its culture — replete with harassment, sexism, sexual relationships between coaches and athletes and officials, among other problems — public. The federation expressed contrition, while detailing steps toward safer sport.

Like the #MeToo movement, it all has the feeling of long-hidden truths surfacing, and in concert with society, the urgency over the conversation has ratcheted up significantly in the past two or three years. There is as much urgency now as there has ever been. Skiers who were abused by Charest are suing Alpine Canada in Quebec for $1.35 million, including $450,000 in non-insured punitive damages.

“Don’t you think we can learn from what happened in the United States?” says Lorraine Lafrenière, CEO of the Coaching Association of Canada. “Didn’t USA Gymnastics have to declare bankruptcy?”


“There was no more room, and it was time for the explosion,” said one Canadian sports executive. “It’s cumulative.”

But it’s gotten better, too. Kennedy and his partner Wayne McNeil have been at the forefront of safety and training in sport for over 20 years, since Kennedy came forward after being sexually abused by his junior hockey coach, Graham James. They have seen everything evolve.

“We were laughed out of rooms,” says McNeil. “And people said it was a hockey problem or it’s not as big a deal. Today they say, we need this (coach and parent training) program as a recruitment and retention tool. And if you don’t have it, then that’s a problem.”

Kennedy talks about how it used to be all about catching the bad guy, and over the years he has come to realize prevention — strengthening the bystander, creating common and shared language on abuse, creating a culture that abhors criminal acts, but also bullying or discrimination or harassment, fostering a belief that safety trumps everything else — is critical.

“I think the gaps, from what we can see, (are in the) reporting structure and the follow-up structure,” Kennedy says. “Campaigns around telling people talk, talk, talk, and when people reach out for help that’s hard to find. That’s the gap. This has got to be an independent funded entity, that’s going to make sure that it handles these issues properly for all sports and youth-serving organizations across the country. It’s got to be robust.”

Duncan says they are working on a third-party reporting entity. It would cost money. Quebec tried something similar, and the system was overwhelmed. According to the CBC, the number of coaches charged and convicted virtually doubled from 1998-2008 to the following decade.

Which, most likely, is good news. Kennedy will tell you: The problem has been there all along. More cases almost certainly means more people are actually speaking aloud.

So what next? Duncan, a former gymnast and longtime dance coach, has been sports minister for a little over a year. Her government faces an election in the fall, and has had itself a tumultuous week.

“When I came into this role about a year ago, my number one priority was addressing abuse, discrimination, harassment in sport,” Duncan said in an interview this week. “It is a system problem, it is a culture problem.”

But she seems committed. Lafrenière says she has never seen as much interest on safe sport from any sports minister. Ahmed El-Awadi, the head of Swimming Canada and a co-chair of Duncan’s safe sport working group, thinks there is a chance for significant change. There are signs actual initiatives could be unveiled next week.

“Here’s what people need to understand: Predators will never be completely eradicated,” says Lafrenière. “So what they do is they find an industry — the Catholic Church, say — and take advantage of its weakness. Then they went to Scouts. They found a weakness and they used that. And that’s what happened in sport, because we’re such a volunteer-driven country in sport, which is beautiful but it’s also the problem. So yes, sport has a problem. But this is a bigger problem.

“Things like (#MeToo) have pushed it forward. I think that’s good. I think that’s a change we need to see in the sports system, and in every system. It’s allowed us to say out loud as a system: No, it’s not performance over safety.”

Beyond the independent third-party reporting system, goals could include a harmonized code of conduct, and a harmonized code of sanctions. There are already pilot programs to give poorer sports access to the investigative resources the bigger federations can afford, and that seems likely to become policy. In a country where the RCMP can’t legally publish the names of child sex offenders, El-Awadi thinks Swimming Canada has a solution. Coaches have to recertify every September, and starting this year will have to sign a waiver that specifies any disciplinary procedure will be noted, and will be published online.

“Hopefully, reading these articles (athletes) say, it’s OK,” says El-Awadi. “It’s OK to say something. It’s OK to tell. You don’t have to call us. You can tell your aunt, your friend, you can go right to the police. We hope that the more we do these interviews, the more they get inspired to say: I have a story. I need to tell somebody.”

Words, actions, policies, money: all of them are needed, some more than others. A chance to get better, is what this is. It isn’t pass-fail; it’s fail less, every year.

“We can create this, and this lightning-rod week will actually make people do it faster,” says Lafrenière. “If we have the same conversation two years from now and we have not done our job, then the system is at risk of being dissolved.”

Nobody believes complete safety will ever be achieved. But what’s the point of sports if it doesn’t protect our children as well as it can? Better can happen; it already has. It just can’t ever stop.


Sheldon Kennedy Statement

February 11th, 2019 Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy


Sheldon Kennedy and Respect Group fully support the necessary systematic changes required to improve sport to ensure the safety of our youth. We believe that the vast majority of coaches, working with our youth, are there for the right reasons. It has been our goal to educate them on all forms of maltreatment so they have the confidence to carry out their “duty of care”. We will continue that charge.



About Respect Group Inc.

Respect Group ( was incorporated on April 5th, 2004 by co-founders, Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil, to pursue their common passion: the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). As Canada’s leading on-line provider of prevention education related to BAHD, Respect Group has certified over 1.2 Million Canadians involved in sport, schools and the workplace. Respect Group is a Certified B Corporation (


For more information about Respect Group:




CPC / COC Joint Statement

cpc, coc, Canadian olympic committee abuse statement, sport, Canada, abuse,

February 10, 2019

Statement Regarding Safe Sport: Tricia Smith, President Canadian Olympic Committee, Marc-André Fabien, President Canadian Paralympic Committee

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees stand for sport free of harassment, abuse or discrimination of any kind. We are committed to the health and safety of all who play or work for the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams and to doing our part to ensure safe sport is the standard.

We will both be in Red Deer, Alberta, next weekend, for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. We look forward to meeting with the Minister of Sport and our partners in the sport system to advance this important conversation and to take action to better safeguard those in sport today and into the future.

Part of our talks will focus on better harmonized mechanisms and actions to address harassment, abuse, and discrimination in the areas of awareness, prevention, reporting, management, and monitoring. The goal is to ensure a common understanding among stakeholders and supporting the safest possible environment for all participants from the club level all the way to Team Canada.

The COC and CPC will be strong and influential voices committed to driving meaningful improvements on this critical issue.



Sheldon Kennedy has spent most of his adult life fighting the good fight

January 31st, 2019 Sheldon Kennedy


Sheldon Kennedy was tired. How could he not be tired? Everyone gets worn out at some point by the grind of work, responsibilities, life. We can all buckle under the things we carry. Sheldon Kennedy just had a better reason than most.

“I really learned that I can’t, I just can’t carry all the weight,” says Kennedy. “And I didn’t realize that. Basically, I have to be healthy myself. If I’m healthy myself, then I’m going to show up the best I can for others.

“At the end of the day I don’t think it’s been anything special other than learning to listen, and understanding that I can’t fix people, but what I can do is offer to guide them to the help that they need. But I had to learn that, right?” MORE

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Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace must be a business priority

January 30th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace, Sheldon Kennedy




Jan 29, 2019, 11:19 ET

Sheldon Kennedy and panel of leading voices on workplace issues say today’s employees will no longer stand by and tolerate abuse

Organizations need to make workplace respect a priority or risk losing their people and damaging their reputations

TORONTOJan. 29, 2019 /CNW/ – Organizations that don’t seriously address bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD) in their workplaces will struggle to attract and retain good employees and suffer from poor productivity, concluded a panel of leading voices on workplace issues speaking at the National Club in Toronto.

“Organizations need to tackle this uncomfortable topic, or risk falling behind,” says Sheldon Kennedy, abuse survivor and co-founder of the Respect Group. “They need to ask the tough questions to determine if this type of behaviour is happening in their organization. They need to be prepared for what they might find and be committed to taking action to address and end it.”

Kennedy joined a panel of leading voices at the National Club to talk about the cause, impact and solutions to workplace abuse and harassment. Joining him on the panel were Louise Bradley, President & CEO, Mental Health Commission of CanadaPamela Jeffery, President, The Pamela Jeffery Group and Soula Courlas, Partner, KPMG.

The panel noted that ignoring the issue not only affects employee retention but it hurts productivity and profitability. Experiencing BAHD in the workplace can trigger mental health problems and illnesses, which, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, are the leading cause of short‐ and long‐term disability in Canada. The economic burden has been estimated at $51‐billion per year, almost $20‐billion of which comes from workplace losses.

While pointing out the risks of not addressing the issue, the panelists noted that many organizations are taking real action to address the issue. “This isn’t just about focusing on the bad individuals,” says Kennedy. “Ninety-eight per cent of individuals want to be good. So focus on them and give them the tools to be better.”

For those companies who don’t know where to start they agreed that the most important step was instituting a culture of respect and zero tolerance for toxic behaviour in their organizations – a tone that needs to come straight from the CEO or the top of the organization.

“This will require a willingness from leadership to face the hard truths about what is happening inside their walls,” says Courlas, who leads KPMG’s People and Change Advisory business. “Bullying can be subtle. Education is key to helping people recognize it. Leadership has a duty to proactively work towards eradicating this type of behaviour, which will inevitably help unlock the best of their people.”

The panel also focused on the impact of changing demographics in the workplace and the importance Millennials, who will soon comprise the largest age group in the workforce, place on culture and organizational values. “Millennials care deeply about an organization’s values, and want to work with organizations who mirror their own,” adds Courlas. “Employers will need to meet their Millennial employees’ expectations or risk losing this valuable source of talent and future leaders. Millennials have also grown up in the age of social media and have seen its impact related to cyber-bullying and online harassment. It is completely unacceptable online and therefore the same expectation needs to be upheld in the workforce.”

Kennedy adds that the Millennial generation doesn’t attach the same stigma to being a victim of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination as previous generations. “They are far less prone to staying quiet if they witness such behaviour. Systems need to be in place to support them in raising these types of instances and they need to see them being dealt with effectively. If not, they will leave and tell everyone why.”

About KPMG in Canada

KPMG LLP, an Audit, Tax and Advisory firm ( is a limited liability partnership, established under the laws of Ontario, and the Canadian member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”). KPMG has over 7,000 professionals/employees in 38 locations across Canada serving private and public sector clients. KPMG is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and one of the best places to work in the country.

The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity, and describes itself as such.

About Respect Group Inc.

Respect Group ( was incorporated on April 5th, 2004 by co-founders, Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil, to pursue their common passion: the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). Respect Group is made up of a team of over 30 talented individuals whose passion is to create a global culture of Respect. As Canada’s leading on-line provider of prevention education related to BAHD, Respect Group has certified over 1.2 Million Canadians involved in sport, schools and the workplace. Respect Group is a Certified B Corporation (


For further information regarding this partnership and Respect in the Workplace: Danica Kelly,

sheldon kennedy, swift current, hockey, hockey game,

Sheldon Kennedy Youth Outdoor Classic

January 22nd, 2019 Sheldon Kennedy, Swift Current

For Immediate Release
January 21st, 2019

Sheldon Kennedy Youth Outdoor Classic
February 7th, 2019 

The City of Swift Current and Safe Places would like to invite our community to attend a special ceremony to mark the first game of the Scotiabank Sheldon Kennedy Youth Outdoor Classic as part of the 2019 Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada events.

Sheldon Kennedy, CM AOE OM, along with Sportsnet and Ron MacLean, will be attending to drop the puck for the first game and to cheer on our participants.

The Scotiabank Sheldon Kennedy Youth Outdoor Classic will provide the opportunity to meet Sheldon, cheer on our teams, and be part of history as we are making some very special announcements.

There will be coffee, hot chocolate and treats for all to enjoy.

Due to the set-up of the Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada activities there will be limited parking available close to the event. However, there will be parking attendants onsite to assist in getting everyone where they want to go.

We look forward to celebrating this tournament with you!

Date: Thursday February 7th, 2019
Time: 3:30pm
Location: Riverdene Outdoor Rink


For more information Please contact: 

Kelly Schafer
Safe Places Manager
City of Swift Current

Sheldon Kennedy Hands Child Advocacy Centre Back To The Community

December 11th, 2018 Press Releases, Sheldon Kennedy




Respect Group is proud of the work Sheldon Kennedy has done for the community of Calgary and beyond. We fully support his decision to hand the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre back to the community.


Please read below for Sheldon’s statement.



For Release December 11, 2018 at 12 PM MST


Sheldon Kennedy hands Child Advocacy Centre back to the Community


I write this with some sadness, a great sense of relief and, with no regrets. I have given it my all.


For the last 23 years I have made myself personally accessible and available to advocate and help those in need of telling their stories of abuse. I have spoken, one on one with thousands of victims, engaged in countless media interviews, keynote speeches, fundraisers, lobbied governments to change legislation and even in-line skated across Canada to raise awareness. It has been a daunting and all-consuming commitment.


From first introducing the idea of a Child Advocacy Centre to our Chief of Police in 2010, to opening the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre in 2012 and having it renamed the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in 2013, I further stepped up that important work through my volunteer commitment to the SKCAC. I now understand that my name on the building really meant a personal responsibility for the day to day practice, the wellness of our front-line workers, the satisfaction of our donors and volunteers and the proper treatment of the victims we serve. This has been a very rewarding 8 years of my life and, at the same time, it has taken its toll.


For the past several months I have had ongoing and emotional conversations with my family and close friends. They have been a great support and, through this process, I have decided to remove my name from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.


I always preach to others that, first and foremost, they need to take care of their own mental health and find balance in their lives. I now need to take my own advice.


I need to refocus my efforts on my work at Respect Group, the company I co-founded, that educates those involved in sport, schools and the workplace on the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination. We have trained over 1.2 million Canadians thus far but there is much more to be done including our involvement in the International Safe Sport movement. And, most importantly, I want to give my full attention and love to my family.  My daughter Ryan, who is now in University, my partner Jen and our five month old son, Lochlin.  I want to be present and enjoy being the best dad and partner I can possibly be.


I want to acknowledge all of the front line workers that have or continue to work at the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.  You are my heroes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And to each of the Agencies who took the risk of working together, you have demonstrated that integrated practice is possible and creates better outcomes for victims. You have also set the standard for your colleagues across the province working in the other regional Child Advocacy Centres.


I want to thank the media for your incredible support. You were always there to help tell my story and leverage the message to educate Canadians and offer solutions.  You have allowed us to change the conversation on these issues forever.


I want to thank every corporation, individual and event that gave so generously to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.  You have all made a significant difference with your kind gifts. I know you will continue to support the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.


To those who have served on the Board, the SKCAC core staff and volunteers, thank you for your passion and dedication.


To Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Honourable Rona Ambrose and The Honourable Peter MacKay: thank you for understanding the importance of Child Advocacy Centres, the impact of early childhood trauma and for your leadership in creating the Victims Bill of Rights. I am honoured to have been able to work with each of you. Thank you for helping us elevate the conversation to a level not previously seen.


To the thousands of victims we have served: be proud that you have found your voice, stay strong and make healing your focus. You continue to inspire me.


To those victims who still may not have come forward: you will always have a safe place to go and be heard at the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.


Today, I am healthy and excited about my next chapter. I will continue the crusade, but with greater balance. I am also comforted to know that the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre and our community are ready to carry the torch. It has become clear that I will not be able to achieve the critical balance I need in my life without taking my name off the Centre. Furthermore, our community will never fully own the issues with my name still on it. The time has come and the future is bright.





Sheldon Kennedy, CM, AOE, OM








Sheldon Kennedy will not be making any further comments.

For any inquiries please contact


Respect Group was incorporated on April 5th, 2004 by co-founders, Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil, to pursue their common passion: the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). Offering certification programs for Community/Sport Organizations (Respect in Sport), Schools and the Workplace, Respect Group has certified over 1,200,000 Canadians.


We welcome and encourage organizations to view our programs at:



Sheldon Kennedy to receive Courage Award

October 25th, 2018 Sheldon Kennedy

» The Brandon Sun – By: Uncredited
Posted: 10/24/2018 3:00 AM |

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy will be in Brandon on Thursday to receive an award from Assiniboine Community College.

Kennedy will be accepting the Assiniboine Courage Award. The award was created by Assiniboine to celebrate people who demonstrate courage in their business, community, professional or personal life, a media release from the institution said.

Kennedy is an advocate for victims of abuse both in Canada and around the world.

The former hockey star was sexually abused by his coach, Graham James.

The documentary “Swift Current” will also be played in Brandon during his time in the city. It documents his journey from a young hockey player, when he was sexually abused by James. It goes on to talk about the work he is doing all over to help victims of abuse.

Kennedy will attend the by invitation-only film screening at Landmark Cinemas in Brandon on Thursday.

During his time in the NHL, Kennedy played for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames.


Former NHLer, sex abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy applauds new rule that makes reporting abuse in sports a priority

July 4th, 2018 General News, Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy
The Star

CALGARY—Former NHL hockey player and sex abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy says that a recent federal announcement requiring sports bodies to report and investigate abuse allegations is a constructive step toward child and youth safety.

On June 19, sport minister Kirsty Duncan announced the new requirement. National sports bodies that receive federal money “must immediately disclose any incident of abuse, discrimination or harassment to the Minister of Sport,” she said……

…Hockey Calgary executive director Kevin Kobelka is also supportive of the announcement.

The minor hockey association he helps manage covers male and female hockey players from the Timbits age group (four and five years old) up to junior-B hockey (16 to 21 years old).

“(We) were the first organization to implement Respect in Sport since 2010,” he said. “Hockey Alberta followed suit and mandated its training after.”

The training program is part of a larger group co-founded by Kennedy called Respect Group Inc. Its goal is to empower people in sports to recognize and prevent bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

The Calgary hockey association requires all coaches to take Respect in Sport’s training program and, starting this year, to get recertified every four years Kobelka said. MORE

Mark My Words — Allegiance shifts back to the Swift Current Broncos

May 22nd, 2018 Sheldon Kennedy, Swift Current

Mark My Words — Allegiance shifts back to the Swift Current Broncos

The Brandon Sun – By: Mark Frison
Posted: 05/18/2018 3:00 AM |

This week we all cheer for the blue and green

Let’s go, Broncos! Let’s go, Broncos!

This is something I haven’t chanted in more than eight years.

From 2005 to 2010, I had the tremendous pleasure of living in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The smallest community I’ve ever lived in, “Speedy Creek” was vibrant, egalitarian and artsy — not really how most people think of the place.

Admittedly, when I was moving to Saskatchewan in 2004 from Nova Scotia, I was not fluent with all of the cities in Land of the Living Skies. I knew not of Humboldt, Kindersley, or even Yorkton — the fifth largest city in the province.

I did know about Swift Current. Because of the Swift Current Broncos. Because of the 1986 bus crash. Because of Graham James. Swift Current was long the smallest community in the country with a major junior hockey franchise. It was a storied one at that captured the Memorial Cup in 1989.

Moving to a town of 15,000 people, our family decided to buy season tickets for the Broncos. What else would there be to do in such a small town? Well, lots. In fact, that first year, we only made it to four games out of 36. Broncos games were great, but I underestimated the rest of the scene in Swift, the demands of becoming a college president at age 34 and the responsibilities associated with a newborn. OK, so I may have been naive on many fronts.

When I came to Assiniboine in June 2010, one of the first questions I was asked by a journalist was “So, are you going to give the Wheat Kings a fair shake?” When that is the third question the media ask you about a new job, you know you are coming to a hockey town.

I indicated I would be an immediate Wheat Kings fan. I was and I never looked back. I did, of course, indicate that the Riders were non-negotiable. But that’s a column for a different day. #GoRiders!

Nevertheless, this week I will find myself cheering on the Broncos with renewed enthusiasm as they represent the WHL in the Memorial Cup. It is not solely attributed to my affection for Swift Current or that I was a four-year season ticket holder (even if I had a poor attendance record).

The bus crash a few weeks ago, killing 16 team members of the Humboldt Broncos, has touched us all. As saddened as I am by that tragedy, I am constantly uplifted by the compassion I have witnessed across Manitoba communities for the players, families and communities affected by this event.

The Humboldt Broncos were, of course, formed from a partnership with the Swift Current Broncos, which included supplying jerseys, and the name of the team was set

It is difficult not to be reminded and draw parallels to the Swift Current Broncos bus crash of 1986. When I was living in Swift Current in 2006 we marked the 20-year anniversary of tragic events there. Many in the community lamented that we had not, up until that point, properly marked or dealt with the events during those 20 years.

We know that one important reason was the influence of then-Broncos head coach Graham James. He refused to let players receive counselling for fear that his unthinkable acts of abuse might be exposed.

Fortunately, Graham James was eventually exposed. Among those who had the courage to expose him was Elkhorn’s own Sheldon Kennedy. Sheldon has been a tireless advocate for victims, a champion for a new era in sports and a general inspiration to those who have suffered hardships and found the strength to pick themselves up and channel that experience in the service of others.

Those are among the reasons I’m thrilled that Assiniboine is recognizing the Brandon-born hockey star and advocate with our second annual Courage Award this October. The Courage Award was created by the college to celebrate leadership – with the hallmark of leadership being courage.

We wanted to be able to amplify for Manitobans the great courage we see all around us in its many forms. Last year, we recognized Don Penny, whose business acumen and appetite for risk led to the growth of a Westman-based accounting firm into the fifth largest firm in Canada — and growing. This year Don and Grand Chief Sheila North, a treasured Assiniboine alumna, will help us recognize and thank Sheldon for his efforts.

As a result of the events in Saskatchewan, we decided to delay announcing that Sheldon was our second recipient. Sheldon was a passenger on that Swift Current Broncos bus crash in 1986. In keeping with his character, he was quick to be on the scene comforting victims after this year’s bus crash. Sheldon would not have wanted recognition of him to distract from where the focus was needed at that moment.

So, this week I will once again be cheering for the Broncos. Not just because I’m a former resident. Not just because I’m a four-time season ticket holder. Not just because I love that an underdog team from the smallest market in the country can triumph over the money of big-market teams to succeed.

But because I want so very badly for them to win for their Humboldt brethren who share their name and their tragic experience. A Memorial Cup will not bring back the lost lives, but it may be a bit of salve for our wounds. It will contribute to my faith in people that grew every time I saw a hockey stick on a doorstep, a group of kids raising money to help families, or the number of times I saw a social media account of some effort in a far-flung corner of the planet to support #HumboldtStrong.

Let’s go Broncos!


Mark Frison is president of Assiniboine Community College.
» Twitter: @markfrison

» Mark Frison is president of  Assiniboine Community College. Twitter: @markfrison


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