By James MacDonald
“This is super heavy!” remarks Miles Reil-Walker the goalie for the Batchewana Attack, as he gingerly handles the gold-plated hunk of metal in his hands. Staring back at him is a gold relief of Nike, the Greek God of victory, stepping over the Olympic rings.
The locker room where he sits is a buzz with noise and excitement as this Salt Lake City gold medal is passed around the room. Its owner, Sami Jo Small, dressed in the bright yellow sweater of Right to Play Canada, walks around the locker room looking totally at ease with the group of 9-10 year-old players.
The goalie for team Canada during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, she has stopped by the Little Native Hockey League tournament to both show her support for the event, as well as to raise awareness for active living, and concussion and head injury awareness, especially around the game of hockey.
Speaking on the tournament and its positive role in shaping the participants, “to me it’s amazing to just bring in people from different communities…and have a chance for these kids to just be kids, and to be able to play.
We were talking to some of the kids about playing mini-sticks in their hotels until midnight, and getting to do all the fun things that kids deserve to get to do”.
Being a member of Canada’s first gold medal women’s hockey team, Sami knows the importance of getting girls involved at this grassroots level.
“I just think that there is so much female empowerment that comes with playing on a team, you learn so much about yourself, about the people around you, and you get to experience what all the other kids in Canada get to experience, which is amazing”.
Article originally posted April 16, 2013.