It has been a great privilege to play hockey in my hometown with the Olds Grizzlys for the last two and a half seasons. Wearing the “C” on my jersey as captain of the team has been a great honour and carries a lot of pride as well as an opportunity to be a positive role model for my fellow teammates.
I wish to thank the present coaching staff for their coaching and encouragement but especially for giving me the opportunity to move on in pursuit of an NCAA scholarship and realize my hockey dreams.
When I reflect back and think about the highlights of being a Grizzly, several experiences surface that have left a lasting impression on me.
I wish to thank Coach Dana Lattery for involving us in the “Jonny Project.” In his wisdom and because of one of his extraordinary motivational ideas, he knew that by assigning his players to follow Jonny Ahlgrim around town to pick bottles would teach us valuable lessons. It was about learning humility and appreciating the small things in life.
Time spent with Jonny made me realize how privileged and blessed I was to play hockey in my hometown. I could see how happy Jonny was as he did his job with enthusiasm and an amazing work ethic.
Other good memories about serving our community and giving something back were the floor hockey games with the Special Olympics groups, interviewing our war veterans during the Remembrance Day week and helping the Christmas Angels at Christmas.
Another highlight was the playoff win over the Canmore Eagles last season. It seemed like an almost impossible challenge to many, but the team bonding we experienced and positive motivation from our coaches made us believe differently.
After winning two straight games in Canmore, something special happened. Perhaps out of fear of losing and disappointing our hometown fans, or just desperation, we became aware of something bigger; even bigger than hockey that was present above us.
Bonding as a team and believing in each other took on a new meaning as we humbly prayed as a team for a favourable outcome before our third game win and sweeping the series.
I wish to give thanks to the Friends of the Grizzlys group who stuck out their necks and were willing to rescue the team from its financial situation and ensure the team would have a future in Olds.
Much appreciation goes out to our faithful fans, billets and volunteers who came out and supported us through some challenging times.
One fan that comes to mind is Merle Goddard who at past 90 years of age rarely misses a game. He has been a fan since the team came to town and is still cheering and often letting the referees know if he does not agree with a call. Fans like Merle Goddard model the true spirit of the Olds community and their pride in having a Junior A team in Olds.
I wish the very best for the Grizzly team and its pursuit of being great again. I am confident the Grizzlys will have a bright future and many more Olds and area minor hockey players will fulfil their dream of standing tall and wearing an Olds Grizzly jersey as I had the opportunity to do.
A very wise man reminded me of something before I was leaving to report to my new team in Spruce Grove. He said, “remember where you came from,” and I proudly replied, “don’t worry. A small piece of my heart will stay in Olds.”