12 Days of Giving – Day 3: Giving once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to WJHA students

December 16, 2020 10:00 am by Jason Friesen Dynamic Featured Image

The holidays may just be around the corner, but Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy (WJHA) students Winner and Divine have already received a gift this year that they won’t soon forget.

The brothers were selected by Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler to attend the Subban Defence League’s Virtual Hockey Camp in late July, hosted of course by New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban.

“The boys thought I was joking,” said their mother Ugo of when she broke the news to them. “So, I showed them the registration emails from Subban Defence League Camp and watched as their jaws dropped in amazement.

“Having the names of two NHL pros in one piece of good news left them speechless, but not for too long because their conversations for the rest of the day centered on hockey, P.K. Subban, captain Blake Wheeler, and the Subban Defence League camp ahead.”

The programming of the WJHA has been a gift in and of itself for Winner and Divine, aged 13 and 14 respectively, who have been in the program since 2016 and have become avid hockey players in the process. The combination of WJHA’s regular programming and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like attending the Subban Defence League Virtual Camp, where the boys had the chance to take part in live dryland training sessions as well as live question and answer periods with Subban, make the WJHA’s impacts ones that will last long beyond the students’ time in the program.

It wasn’t hard to pull highlights from the week out of Winner and Divine.

“It was pretty cool to have a one-on-one practice with P.K. Subban right in my living room. Even though it was a virtual camp, it felt very real because I got to talk to him on Zoom,” said Divine. “My highlight of the camp week was getting to see P.K. and ask him some hockey questions during the Zoom meeting.”

“The joga sessions with Jana Webb was my highlight because the exercises helped me a lot,” noted Winner. “I realized I needed to keep working on my fitness so that I can play better and not get injured easily.”

Those highlights alone speak to what WJHA student athletes take away from the program. The program uses hockey as a vehicle to engage kids in their school community and provides the resources and encouragement that motivate them to excel academically and build confidence on the ice, in the classroom, and beyond.

“(Subban) reinforced some of the lessons my sons regularly receive at WJHA on the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyles,” Ugo said. “I hope that my sons learn that becoming a professional athlete does not happen magically. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, sacrifices, and determination. It requires consistency in little efforts made on a daily basis.”

Putting in consistent effort on a daily basis will play out well, no matter where Winner and Divine go in life. For now, Winner and Divine clearly have a passion for hockey and activity, making the WJHA a perfect fit for them where they can enjoy playing the game they love while learning important life skills mentioned by their mother, among others, that will help them throughout their lives.

“For them to continue on this path, they definitely need opportunities like the one provided by the Subban camp to not only improve their skills, but to see that they belong in the hockey community and can compete at the highest level,” WJHA Director Murray Cobb said. “This is crucial for the boys considering the current push for social justice and especially, on a personal note for Divine, as he unfortunately dealt with racial slurs directed at him in a game last season. I hope they took away some of the larger lessons learned that everyone is equal and should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. I hope the camp opened their eyes to the fact that although hockey has room to improve, the sport is one that is taking steps to welcome players from all backgrounds.”

Whether the message is coming from the WJHA, P.K. Subban, or elsewhere, it’s clear that hockey has a lot more to provide for youth than activity. The values gained from playing the game and the ability to engage youth through the sport are invaluable.

Give students like Winner and Divine the change to learn valuable life lessons, and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences, through the WJHA by DONATING TODAY!