Story by Lachlan Ross - ISN / Photographs by Glenn Ivens - ISN
August 9, 2013 Victoria, BC (ISN) -Boys in black brimmed Bauer caps climb the viewing deck railing to get nearer their idols. The second story balcony peers over the old Racquet Club Kings hockey rink, rebranded University of Victoria on the north wall. The kid’s hats pair with their grey t-shirts, both reading ROCC – or Ryan O’Byrne Charity Camp. It’s lunchtime on day three of the August 5-9 hockey clinic, and five NHL players are on ice to scrimmage. BCHL, NCAA, and WHL players join Toronto Maple Leaf, Ryan O’Byrne to take on Dallas Stars’ duo, Jamie and Jordie Benn, Colorado Avalanche's Tyson Barrie, and the San Jose Sharks' Matt Irwin – all locals to Victoria, BC.
Local NHL players (from left to right) Jordie Benn, Matt Irwin, Ryan O'Byrne, Jamie Benn and Tyson Barrie were at the Ian Stewart Complex on Wednesday afternoon for a little summer shinny at the Ryan O'Byrne Charity Camp. (photo by Glenn Ivens - ISN)
Green, black, white, blue, red, and grey jerseys speed by the boards as the whole group warm-up together – each player wearing their respective club’s uniform. The game begins a battle of fast breaks. O’Byrne turns the puck over in his half then smiles, poking his stick out at former Colorado teammate, Barrie, who attacks the net. Barrie’s shot goes wide left and the two exchange a bump. All 63 nine to 12 year old boys and the lone girl of the camp peer down from the viewing deck, munching sandwiches and packed snacks. Even a few parents have made it out in work clothes for extended lunchbreaks – a few of the dads looking as excited as their sons.
Ryan O'Byrne is all smiles after scoring a goal at Wednesday's Pro Skate at the 2nd annual Ryan O'Byrne Charity Camp which raised $40,000 for Kidsport Victoria. (photo by Glenn Ivens - ISN)
The parents and kids don’t have to wait long for the opening goal. A one on one breakaway sees Northern Michigan University grad, Brian Nugent, toy with the goalie in a barrage of dekes, slapping ice either side of the puck before placing a wrist shot top shelf. “Woahhhh,” echoes the small arena as little voices rev up.
“I think it’s exciting for them to see the speed and the skills and watch everything at a high pace,” says camp founder, O’Byrne. He recalls attending summer camps as a boy and idolizing the Victorian born Courtnall brothers. “As a young kid it’s always exciting to meet a guy that plays in the NHL and get his autograph and kind of watch him on the ice and watch how he does things, so [the scrimmage] is exciting and a nice part of this charity camp.”
The Ryan O’Byrne Charity Camp began in August 2012 with all profits from the camp going to KidSport Victoria. Last year’s camp managed to raise $25,000 to get over 100 kids into sport in Greater Victoria. In July this year, the Ryan O’Byrne Youth Sports Society, in partnership with the NHLPA, KidSport Victoria and Kirby’s Source for Sports also gave 28 kids in Greater Victoria brand new sets of hockey gear and their registration fees for the upcoming season. At this year’s camp, over 80% of the kids are returnees from last year, and the ROCC has raised over $40,000.
Tyson Barrie is a returnee to the camp this year and vows to return for as long as the camp is going, so that he can give back to the sport of hockey. (photo by Glenn Ivens - ISN)
“I’ve done [the camp] the last two years now,” says Tyson Barrie, “and I mean hats off to Ryan, he took this on, it’s a big deal, and it’s a great thing he’s doing for the kids. Anytime you get a chance to come out and give back it feels great and as long as he keeps this thing going, I’ll be here.”
After a few scrimmages of sending passes up ice to teammates, O’Byrne finally nets a goal of his own. It’s obvious the other players want the camp leader to celebrate as they tease him from bench. He skates the boards beneath the balcony of boys, punching the air and laughing. Two peewees race up to the viewing deck yelling, “I got a piece,” to their friends. They both hold half of a split warm up puck – a souvenir they may still have at O’Byrne’s age.
The upper viewing deck at Ian Stewart Complex was full of smiling faces as the young NHL stars of the future got an opportuinity to watch the NHL players of today go full out. (photo by Glenn Ivens - ISN)
After the scrimmage, O’Byrne poses in his Leafs gear for iPhoned parents and beaming boys. Jamie and Jordie Benn tirelessly sign programs, caps, and sticks before being chased to the change rooms by peewee players.
After a quick change, the Benn brothers and O’Byrne are back on the ice for a skills session with the nine and 10 year old “atoms” campers. The brothers look on, giving tips and encouragement as the kids weave between laid out tires, practicing their puck control. Jamie leans against a goal post and talks with the atom in net.
The Brothers Benn, Jamie (top) and Jordie (bottom) were on hand to support the Ryan O'Bryne Charity Camp and get a kick out of watching the fun the young players were having. (photos by Glenn Ivens - ISN)
“Growing up we played a lot of road hockey and battled against each other quite a bit,” says Jamie about his early years with Jordie. “So it’s fun to come out here and watch these guys and how much fun they’re having.”
A CTV broadcaster interviews two campers by the bench. Peter Klinovsky watches from behind his digital camera, snapping a few pictures of son, Jacob. “I think they’re all really excited about seeing the guys they see on TV,” he says as Jacob talks to the camera. The Klinovsky family has flown from Upland, California for the week to visit Jacob’s grandparents and while in town, allow Jacob to experience Canadian hockey. Klinovsky says it’s a real testament to his hometown of Victoria to have so many successful NHL players. “And it’s even more of a testament that they come out and share it with the little guys.”
Rounding out the crew of NHL'ers on hand was San Jose Sharks Matt Irwin, he like the four other local NHL players on hand Wednesday saw playing time in the BCHL before turning pro. (photo by Glenn Ivens - ISN)