A young Red Deer hockey player had the opportunity of a lifetime last month as she had the chance to travel across the country to meet and learn from her all-time favourite hockey player.
“It was a dream come true,” said 10-year-old Malia Tetreault, who just recently returned from a trip to Nova Scotia where she attended the prestigious Sidney Crosby Hockey School.
The school, which takes place in Crosby’s home town of Cole Harbour, only accepts 160 kids out of 5,000 applications every year, and the lucky few who are selected are given a truly special experience.
“He was on the ice everyday with the kids. He would be there in the morning or in the afternoon, but he was on the ice everyday. He had 10 other assistant coaches out there with them, so the kids had tons of training,” said Malia’s mother Bridget of Crosby, who is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and is the captain of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after the Penguins triumphed over the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final last season.
In addition to the on-ice instruction, participants also had the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with Crosby for a photo and to have something signed.
It was the experience of a lifetime for Malia, who is an avid Penguins fan and considers Crosby her hero.
“He’s probably the best player in the NHL,” she said, adding that when the time came for her to meet the superstar, she was really excited.
“I was kind of nervous and happy. I got to meet my hero.”
The school, which Crosby runs annually in Cole Harbour, ran from July 11th-15th and featured on-ice practices that included the opportunity to refine stick handling, and work on skating technique as well as shooting, dryland training and special guest speakers such as Colorado Avalanche young gun and Crosby’s fellow Cole Harbour native Nathan MacKinnon. It’s such a unique opportunity that players travel from as far away as Norway to participate in it.
“She gained skating skills, she learned respect for the sport. That’s one of the big things that Sidney likes to teach the kids. And being a good leader. I think it was just an overall well-run hockey camp,” Bridget said.
“He kept the kids busy from eight until four every day.”
And the once-in-a-lifetime experiences didn’t stop there for the young Red Deerian.
There’s a tradition in the NHL in which every member of any team who wins the Stanley Cup gets to spend 24 hours with the famous silver trophy in the city of their choice over the summer following their win.
This year, Crosby chose to spend his day with the Cup in Cole Harbour, where he dropped by the hockey school with his new friends Stanley and Conn Smythe so the kids could see hockey’s ultimate prizes first-hand.
“That was pretty cool,” said Malia, who currently plays at the Atom level in Red Deer Minor Hockey.
Bridget said the initial decision to apply for the camp stemmed from Malia’s passion for the game, and for the Penguins in particular.
“She’s just such a huge fan of Sidney Crosby. She follows him and everything, so she saw advertisements for his hockey school. So I thought just a shot in the wind, I thought, oh well we’ll apply. She may not get accepted because there were 5,000 applicants, but I thought whatever at least we can say we tried.
“But she was lucky enough to be accepted, which was absolutely amazing,” Bridget said.
The trip also allowed the youngster to experience the east coast’s unique culture, as the family decided to tour around the Maritime provinces after the conclusion of the camp.
“We went to P.E.I., New Brunswick and Cape Breton,” said Malia, adding that even with all of the cool places she saw, Cole Harbour is still one of the most special.
“It was beautiful and pretty cool because I’m in his home town.”
Now Malia said she’s looking forward to hitting the ice for the upcoming hockey season to apply what she learned from the two-time Olympic Gold Medallist.
“I’m pretty excited.”