DIGBY, N.S. –
Maritime NHL’ers for Kids – held in Digby July 25-26 – kicked off on July 25 with a meet and great with some of the celebrities in town for the golf tournament.
Ron MacLean, Dave Andrews, Gary the Canadian Tire Guy, Liam O’Brien, Dan Robertson, Nick Greenough, Eric Neilson, Ryan Bowness, Mike Kelly, Rick Bowness, Brad Marchand, Jill Saulnier and Blayre Turnbull all greeted fans at Canadian Tire in Digby, while Paul Boutilier and Murray Wilson stopped by to visit residents and staff at Tideview Terrace.
On July 26 a question and answer period took place at Digby Area Recreation Centre/arena, where celebrities passed on some tips and knowledge to the youth attending the event.
Jillian Saulnier of the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team was asked what it took for her to get where she is today and what type of sacrifices she had to make to get there.
Saulnier mentioned when she started playing hockey there weren’t a lot of other girls playing the sport. To pursue the sport she left home at a young age, but this was a sacrifice she was willing to make.
“I knew that the end goal was worth those sacrifices,” she said.
She told the youth that it might not always be easy but don’t give up.
“You’re going to have tough times and there’s going to be teams you don’t make and I think that if you can just surpass that and get over the fact that there are going to be some tough bumps in the road, then you know anything you do after that you’ll reward yourself,” she said at the Q and A.
Her Team Canada teammate Blayre Turnbull added that she didn’t anticipate getting the opportunity to play professional hockey until a couple of years ago.
She mentioned how thankful both girls were for the continued support from Nova Scotia and the rest of the country throughout their Olympic journey.
“It was really unbelievable for both of us to experience,” she said.
Team Canada brought home a silver medal after losing a hard-fought game to Team USA in a shootout at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The athletes both enjoy travelling around talking to people, especially youth, about their journey and what it took to get to where they are today.
“It’s a huge honor and it’s also a big responsibility for us because we take a lot of pride in it and we want to represent you guys well and we want to show you guys what it takes to get to this level.”
Interviewed by Maritime NHL’ers for Kids’ Craig Eagles during the event – with the video posted the Maritime NHL’ers for Kids Facebook page – Yarmouth’s Ryan Graves, a prospect for the Colorado Avalanche who just recently signed a one-year contract with the NHL organization, was asked what it meant to him to be participating in an event that gives back to kids and helps them to play hockey.
Funds raised by Maritime NHL’ers for Kids helps to support kids in the Martimes by breaking financial barriers for those who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be afford to participate in the sport.
“You get to meet kids from Yarmouth, from Clare and from Digby,” Graves said about being at the event and the interaction that took place. “You get to see the kids. Maybe they’re shy when they meet you but you see the smile on their face when they walk away and they meet guys like Brad (Marchand), that’s a dream for them, and they meet Ron MacLean. It’s a great event and it’s great to meet the kids and put a face onto where the money is going.”
Graves – who recalled his days traveling around the province playing competitive minor hockey – says hockey is an expensive sport, given the equipment, registration and the travel involved.
“That’s why we do things like this and if we can help a couple of families out it’s worth the time that we put it,” said Graves. “It’s literally the least we can do.”
In another video interview with Ron MacLean posted to the Facebook page, the hockey broadcaster was asked about this Maritime connections.
“Mom and dad are both Cape Bretoners,” he said. “I used to sit around the table and listen to my relatives talk . . . the story telling and the humour was just off the charts.”
He noted being in Digby, while it was a fun experience it was also a great learning experience.
“I used to come for the Classic years ago and we used to convene at Club 98 and we’re still doing that. We did it again here as part of our great celebration,” he said. “Just talking to Brad Marchand over the last 24 hours, talking to Ryan Bowness, Rick’s son, who is scouting for Pittsburgh, you learn so much.
“There’s an old saying there are always two teachers in the room. After the long haul of hockey, which is 10 months … I live now in Oakville, Ontario, it’s invaluable to get out of Oakville and to come and be with others to get information, to get ideas, it’s really nourishing,” MacLean said. “From the children to all of these great athletes, it was great education.”
To see the full question and answer session and other video interviews visit the Maritime NHLers for Kids Facebook page.