KELOWNA - It appears the story of the nine-year-old boy who quit his hockey team in tears after being repeatedly benched, may have a happy ending after all.
Our story about Sam Lescarbeau has gone truly viral with people from all over Canada writing to encourage him, share similar stories from all manner of sports teams and remind coaches that sports is supposed to be fun.
The story also got attention from the big leagues and another hockey team encouraging him to come back.
The Okanagan All Stars Hockey Club offered him a spot on its 2015 team.
“Although Sam certainly did not enjoy his situation and wanted to leave hockey, we reached out and offered Sam a spot… so he could finish the spring season on a good note and he happily accepted,” said Kim Dobranski in an email. “The 2015 team is welcoming him with open arms and we will ensure his passion and love for the game is not lost on this incident.”
Ray Petkau, a certified player agent with the National Hockey League Players Association based in Manitoba, said he read about Sam’s situation and wanted to do something.
“I’d like to get the kid rubbing shoulders with some NHL guys, maybe get him a jersey,” he said. “I hate to have him with a taste in his mouth like that. It’s a great sport and I’d like to help the young man out.”
He puts on NET360 goalie and shooter camp featuring a roster of NHL goalies including James Reimer (Toronto Maple Leafs), Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild), Thomas Greiss (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo Sabres). Firing pucks at them will be the likes of Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg Jets), Victor Bartley (Nashville Predators) and Brad Hunt (Edmonton Oilers).
Yannick Lescarbeau, Sam’s father, again declined to be interviewed, although he said he thought Sam would be thrilled with the chance to meet some NHL players.
“We will continue to handle this privately, but appreciate the community support,” said Lescarbeau, in an email.
It was his open letter to the other parents and players on the West Kelowna Knights about the reasons Sam was quitting that started the story and fuelled debate about the win-at-all-costs attitude of some coaches that leaves some players benched for long stretches.
While most thought the attitude was detrimental to such young players, other’s thought the practise was motivational and a taste for hockey hopefuls of what life is like at the upper levels of the sport.
Petkau said there is obviously a point where the best players are separated from the rest but that parents and coaches too focussed on winning are doing it to players who are too young.
"Every player should enjoy the game, be it as a youth player, in house league or the NHL and every level in between. It is, after all a game," he said.
He added that regular ice time can make a world of difference to a young player's confidence, regardless of their skill level.
"Often the only difference between a good player and a less talented player is confidence or at least confidence can be the difference between improving and just being there. Allow them to have fun and give them a reason to believe in themselves and it's incredible what that can do," Petkau said.
Dobranksi said Sam’s previous coaches are decent people who had made the best decisions they could under the circumstances.
"There are always moments that we look back on and wish we could revisit certain decisions and all of us coaches have them.”
Indeed, Lescarbeau himself, in his letter to parents emphasized he did not blame the coaches but also did not share their hockey philosophy.
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