Left to right: Lane and Kathleen Moore, Dan Mason and Kevin Masters with their hockey playing progeny visited China last year with the goal of setting up a tournament in Shanghai.
When most kids are goofing off this summer and hockey’s the furthest thing from their minds, two teams of enthusiastic youngsters, fresh out of a new spring hockey club will be playing their favourite winter game this August – in China.
They’re all members of the Junior Golden Bears Spring Hockey Club, a new community sport development initiative that’s a marriage of academia in the form of Dan Mason, a professor of the business of hockey and NHL expert, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics and Lane Moore, community hockey coach and faculty alumnus (BPE’95).
Mason met Moore when Moore coached his young daughter. “Lane and I were interested in starting a program under the auspices of the Golden Bears hockey program that has a national reputation for excellence,” says Mason.
“We said we’d start with two teams,” says Moore, who, besides being a hockey coach for over 10 years, is principal of Bentley School in Bentley, Alberta, and runs a hockey academy there. “But once word got out, we were up to eight teams this year alone.”
From late July to August 10 Moore and his wife, Kathleen, a power skating coach, and other coaches and parents, will chaperone two teams: one of 2002’s and one of 2003’s. (Players are classified by their birth year for spring hockey.) Teams will meet in Shanghai for the tournament and they will also travel to Beijing for sight-seeing and exhibition games.
The connections to China that opened the door to this year’s tournament began with Mason, one of the most well known academic commentators on the North American hockey scene. “I made some connections with people in China who were involved with the Beijing Minor Hockey Association. They asked me if I could put together a team of people to come over and run some hockey camps for them.”
So last year Mason, Moore and coach Kevin Masters took their kids, all of whom play hockey, to lead a two-week hockey camp in Beijing. “We had some discussions about ongoing relationships and whether we’d be interested in bringing teams over for a tournament. We agreed,” says Mason.
Having a spring hockey club for all-star juniors affiliated with Golden Bears and Pandas made good sense to Mason and Moore. “There is a big advantage to being under the umbrella of the Golden Bears; it brings a superior level of stewardship to the program, access to excellent coaches and other experts, and conversely, they (coaches) would have access to these junior elite level players. Golden Bears is a valuable brand – and we want to make sure that this is done right.”
Golden Bears’ hockey alumni have also enthusiastically stepped up to coach the teams or brought their own children - budding top performers in their own right - to the camp.
Mason says the kids are exciting to watch. “These kids are very, very motivated. They like to practice, work hard and they are very competitive. It’s a great environment to see them in because in minor hockey, depending on what team you get placed in you don’t always have that same level of motivation. Kids in spring training want to be good, they want to push themselves. This is an opportunity for kids to play kids of equal or better calibre and that often brings up their skill level overall.”
The now-official Junior Golden Bears Spring Hockey Club is strictly not-for-profit, says Moore. “Our main focus is player development and providing appropriate opportunities for these athletes to play, learn the game of hockey and apply these skills – sportsmanship, trust, loyalty, determination - to real life.”
Vang Ioannides, associate director of Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics, who helped cement the association with the spring hockey club last year, is enthusiastic. “This fits with the Golden Bears and Pandas sport development model that we’re adopting with all of our sports where we have or are developing junior teams in the community. With a program like this, there’s also the potential for us to recruit these young athletes when they’re older to join Golden Bears and Pandas.”
Moore says the future looks bright for the new club. “I can only see it growing. I suspect we’ll be at ten to maybe twelve teams soon and our relationship with China will continue to strengthen as we explore the possible investment by China in an arena here, and we fully expect that Chinese teams will be coming here for tournaments in the future.”
More information: www.jrgoldenbears.com