KING’S POINT, NL — The Valmont Academy girls ball hockey team found inspiration from a high-profile source this past weekend.
Canadian Olympic female hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser took some time to Facetime the team of King’s Point girls to wish them well at their tournament in King’s Cove. However, like so many moments in sports, this message came with a life lesson.
Wickenheiser thanked the girls, and the people of King’s Point, for their support of the Humboldt Broncos. Like so many across the province and country, the people of King’s Point — a small community in Green Bay — have been showing their support for the victims of the bus crash that claimed the lives of 16 hockey players and personnel. But, this small town has a direct connection to the tragedy.
The Warford billet family of Humboldt Bronco Evan Thomas used to live in King’s Point. Teenagers Colten and Shelby Warford are former students at Valmont Academy. The family —which also includes parents Dudley and Laurie and daughter Taryn — have spoken publicly about the profound effect Thomas’ death has had on them.
There is also a former Humboldt resident attending school in King’s Point now — Canyon Stoodley. He used to play minor hockey in the Saskatchewan town.
Outside the support that has been overwhelming in King’s Point, the girls ball hockey team wore glow sticks at the opening ceremonies of the provincial tournament and played the games with green tape on their sticks and Broncos stickers on their helmets. One of the team members made stickers with the names of the victims of the crash on it.
Valmont ball hockey coach Tanya Warford, a teacher at Valmont, is a niece of the Warford couple living in Humboldt. Wickenhesier and singer Paul Brandt were recently guests of the Warfords, and the Facetime session was arranged during the visit.
Coach Warford played hockey herself and is a major fan of Wickenheiser and all the former Olympian accomplished in her hockey career.
“For me, I was a little bit star struck,” the coach said. “She is like an idol.”
Player Brooke Blanchard was also amazed at what was happening.
“When Miss Warford told us we were going to get a Facetime with Hayley Wickenheiser, I kind of stopped and was like, ‘the’ Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympian Hailey Wickenheiser?” she said. “I was like star struck. I followed her all through the Olympics and I think she is pretty amazing.
“We were, like, oh my God, she is right there and talking to us. We were very fortunate to get a few motivational words from her, and she thanked us for supporting the Humboldt Broncos.”
Blanchard said the tragedy has hit the students at Valmont and the town of King’s Point hard.
“The fact it happened to a hockey team, it happened to a sports team,” she said. “Here at Valmont, we are very committed to our sports program. We take bus trips all the time. Something like that happening, even if it is halfway across Canada, really hit home.”
Kate Blanchard, one of the players, also sang for Brandt during the Facetime session.
The team was 0-3 at that point in the tournament. However, they were still in high spirits and enjoying the experience of a provincial tournament. They would win their next game and qualify for the semi-final game.
Player Vanessa Coish believes the talk with Wickenheiser served as motivation in their next game.
“I think it definitely made us work a little harder,” she said.
“It is a sad time,” she said about the tragedy of the bus crash. “It is nice we got to show Hayley that, even though we are all the way down here in King’s Point, we are showing our support.”
The Valmont girls received the team sportsmanship award at the tournament.
Valmont Academy girls A ball hockey provincials
KING’S COVE, NL — The Valmont Academy girls of King’s Point earned a big 6-4 victory over Bishop White School of Port Rexton in their final round robin game to make the semi-final at the A provincial ball hockey tournament this past weekend.
Unfortunately, the on-court success ended there, as they fell to Burgeo Academy 11-1 in the crossover game. Burgeo would win the provincial championship with an 11-3 victory over Labrador Straits Academy, but Valmont Academy received the team sportsmanship banner for the tournament.
The King’s Point team went 1-3 in the round robin, losing 9-2 to Burgeo, 11-1 to Labrador Straits, and 9-4 to the host St. Mark’s School.