Strictly Hockey

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Gold medal session

Former Olympians share skills, words of wisdom with young players

By JACOB ROBINSON, SIMCOE REFORMER

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Cheryl Pounder runs through a drill at Talbot Gardens in Simcoe on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. JACOB ROBINSON Simcoe Reformer/QMI Agency
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Sometimes a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

In the case of local female hockey players, learning from two of the game's most accomplished stars only built on the familiar points their coaches have been making their entire careers.

"Sometimes we've heard that from coaches before, where we've told (players) to go out and do something and they go out and do it and the coach says, 'we've been telling them that all year'," said Olympic gold medalist and Hagersville native Becky Kellar.

Kellar was on the ice at Talbot Gardens Wednesday along with former Team Canada running mate Cheryl Pounder. The duo often makes appearances across southern Ontario, and was on hand throughout the day to provide advice, skills and drills to Norfolk HERicanes players free of charge.

"We find that too at the level we play at," Kellar added, "Sometimes you need to hear a different voice, so we kind of provide that, some different methods and some experience as well."

During careers in which they combined for six Olympic medals, Kellar and Pounder have crossed paths with plenty of Norfolk players thanks to their 'Strictly Hockey' program. For many of those on hand Wednesday though, it was their first chance to learn from a hometown hero and Pounder, a Montreal native.

"I thought it was pretty cool to have big time players come and help us little (centre) players from Norfolk out - teach us how to play and maybe we'll be like them one day," said HERicanes bantam Mara Wilson of Langton.

"It taught us to believe in your dreams and never give up because anything is possible."

If you ask Kellar she'll tell you there's no real secret to making it to the top, and that's something she and Pounder relay to their students each and every time on the ice.

"The message is have fun and work hard, and it doesn't matter what level they play at, that's what you need," she said. "You're playing a team sport, so obviously you've got to work hard for the rest of the team as well as yourself. So I think the message stays pretty similar and we try to make it fun."

The timing of the session - which was open to all members of the HERicanes organization - couldn't have been better. Not only is school out until Monday, but it won't be long until the puck drops on the post season. It's then that even the smallest detail can make the difference between a win and a loss, and that attention to detail was stressed on each exercise.

"They're teaching us better habits in drills we do every day. It was really cool to see how they thought of drills, which was a little different than how I thought to do it. Now I have a different perspective, which is a better one," said HERicanes bantam and Simcoe native Michaela Storoschuk.

"It was actually really amazing because you got to see what they did to make themselves better (and that) can make you better because you see their techniques."

Kellar's rise to prominence has been well documented. As one of the only players in the area (ringette dominated the ranks back then) growing up, the youngster was forced to play in Glanbrook before eventually competing for Brown University and the national women's program. Things have changed dramatically since her days as a youth Kellar said.

"There's so many girls playing now. I think when I grew up there was one team in Simcoe and now they've got over 150 girls registered," the mother of two explained. "It's nice to be able to come out and work with them and see all the smiling faces and eager players."

It wasn't long ago that one of those eager players under Kellar and Pounder's tutelage was Waterford goalie Elaine Chuli. A former Strictly Hockey attendee, Chuli is currently competing for Team Canada at the same Under 18 World Championship event Kellar entered in 1993. Kellar said the advancement of another top-level area prospect was something she'd been expecting.

"There were so many great male hockey players come out of this area that it was just a matter of time before you get a number of women that come out as well," she said. "I've been following that tournament a little bit and it looks like she's doing really well (1-0 with a shutout). I wish her all the best and hopefully we'll watch her some day at the Olympic level, that would be nice."

Jacob Robinson

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