From the vault: Olympic fever hits Tri-Cities

This article was originally published on the front page of the Coquitlam Now on Feb. 12, 2010.

It starts with a rumble, a muted clamour in the distance.

The air becomes electric, animating all those around.

It’s coming. It’s coming.

Necks crane and hands stuff down into pockets to fish out cameras.

Those lined up by the red tape in Port Coquitlam’s Leigh Square shift their weight, make room for more children at the front who look back at their parents for confirmation.

It’s just after 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, and Shaughnessy Street is jam-packed with a jovial crowd that grows denser the closer you get toward City Hall.

The throngs of young and old look like they’ve been doused in red, and many carry flags. Despite the rain, they are all wearing smiles.

Thousands showed up in downtown Port Coquitlam Thursday morning to watch the Olympic torchbearer stride through town, meet his fellow torchbearer under the bandshell and pass the flame on.

Nancy Tremblay’s six-year-old son, Cameron, stared wide-eyed at the Leigh Square crowd.

Her son has been waiting for this moment for months, and the anticipation has only grown as his school does art projects like making crafty torches and Olympic rings or devoting days to the red and white.

Tremblay says there was no way Cameron and his sisters, nine-year-old Mackenzie and 13-year-old Destiny, would have missed watching the torch come to town.

“They had to come. They were very excited. We got up really early for this,” Tremblay says, chuckling. The Olympics have come to hold deep meaning in their PoCo household. “It means a great sense of pride for our country and the athletes. It’s something my children will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The roar grows and suddenly, hands are thrown in the air as a helicopter hovers nearby, the occupants looking down to see a sea of waving mittens and flags as the likes of Doug Alward, Terry Fox’s longtime friend, run the torch into the city.

Decked out in the now-famous white tracksuit and red mittens, Mark Stoklosa jogs the final 300 metres past school children and Olympic fans to where city councillors and staff cheer.

Stoklosa and Port Coquitlam’s David Kam come together, their torches meet and the flame ignites to the delight of everyone at Leigh Square, to thunderous applause and screams. And just as quickly as the flame arrived, it departs Leigh Square, Kam hoisting his torch through more streets lined with child and adult fans.

They see local athletes like Chris Rinke, a wrestler who competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and Brit Townsend, Simon Fraser University’s cross-country track and field coach, raise the torch aloft and move the Olympic dream along.

Commuters along Lougheed Highway witness preparations at Mackin Park beginning early, with stage and booth setup taking place long before daylight.

Rain falls gently on the heart of Maillardville, where scads of people dressed in red congregate for the Tri-Cities’ only community cauldron celebration.

Local politicians, fresh from the completion of early morning torch relays through Belcarra, Anmore and Port Moody, arrive at the park and jockey for position to watch entertainment on the stage. Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Iain Black says 2,000 people showed up to watch the torch run through Anmore, dwarfing the number of visitors recorded on even the busiest summer day.

Black is dancing beside the stage, and he is not alone. More than 10,000 people are moving to the beat of music blaring from the sound system and the palpable buzz in the air.

It’s coming. It’s coming.

As the clock comes closer to 9 a.m., dignitaries make their way to the stage.

Chris Wilson appears at the edge of the park an holds the torch aloft, beaming as he walks down the middle of the crowd toward the stage.

He pauses on stage to drink the moment in, and then tilts the torch to his left, where the community cauldron ignites, causing loud waves of sound to run through the crowd.

It’s here. It’s here.

“It’s amazing. I have never thought that I would ever see something like this,” he says, thanking the community for its support and enthusiasm.

The former wrestler, who competed at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, now chairs KidSport Tri-Cities, which helps youths take part in organized sports.

“I think it’s really important for kids to find that thing they’re passionate about, that they love doing. And then they should work their butt off for it,” Wilson says, adding that kids should be encouraged to try everything from sports to arts and pastimes in between. “Everyone’s got a talent for something.”

Wilson steps down off the stage and makes a beeline to his family nearby, one daughter with a sign saying “Go Dad Go.”

“It’s an amazing morning,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says. “This is the biggest crowd ever assembled in Coquitlam, and I tip my hat to you.”

Dancers take to the stage, delighting the crowd with Scottish highland, Korean, Chinese and Russian dance, before assembling together for a multicultural encore.

They make way for 19 Grade 10 students from Dr. Charles Best Secondary, all clad in white tracksuits. Led by school counsellor Kristi Blakeway, the Best Buddies group is to carry the torch on so other communities can share in the dream.

The VANOC announcer declares Coquitlam an Olympic community as Blakeway’s torch is lit, and members of the school troupe descend the stairs and high-five the crowd as they wend their way out of Mackin Park.

The crowd, after offering its final hurrah, lets out a collective breath.

It’s gone. It’s gone.

And yet, it’s only the beginning.

BIG hits the shelves in Canada

What a whirlwind week! I arrived home on Wednesday to find my pre-order copies of BIG: Stories About Life in Plus-Sized Bodies had arrived.

Even the Table of Contents is pretty!

Opening the box was surreal. Packs of five books were each plastic-wrapped together, preserving that fresh book smell. The cover is silky smooth and the vibrant colours pop off the page. It is simply a thing o’ beauty.

Caitlin Press Editor Christina Myers has amassed some incredible essays that lay bare the experience of living large in a society obsessed with small.

These stories offer a closer look at what it means to navigate a world designed to fit bodies of a certain size (sometimes literally) and, in turn, invite readers to ask questions about — and ultimately reconsider — our collective and individual obsession with women’s bodies.

There’s promotions planned in the near future, and I know I have more to say on this topic, but let’s cut to the chase on what really matters.

Get your copy now

My husband was just as excited as I was to see this on Page 16.

Today is the official release date for the anthology. Purchase a copy from one of the Okanagan’s best independent bookstores, Mosaic Books.

I’m also a fan of Wendel’s in Langley. They have some copies and you can also order online.

Or you can order it directly from Caitlin Press themselves.

Do you live in the U.S.? Order a copy from Powell’s. Have you ever been? If you’re ever in Portland, GO. It was a spiritual experience.

I’m a fan of supporting independents, but I get that sometimes you gotta go big to get BIG. Here’s some links to pave the way:

Have questions or wondering about readings? Feel free to hit me up.

Finding Your Cape released and now a bestseller

Happy crowd of Mareathoners at Saturday’s book launch celebration.

All that work, reading, revising, mental energy, worry, tears, contemplation just emerged into the world as an incredible book that people are buying and reading.

Mare McHale is the best-selling author of Finding Your Cape.
Me and best-selling author, Mare McHale.

It was an honour to help Mare McHale edit Finding Your Cape: How to Course Correct and Achieve Greatness When Things Don’t Go As Planned. I know the book will help so many people – it features honesty that we don’t see much of in the world. But this makes such a strong argument for being authentic and staying true to yourself.

I’m still amazed at Mare’s strength, resiliency and vulnerability, enduring so much and also recognizing how her struggles can, and will, help others.

The book launch was packed – and the vibe in the room was so positive and celebratory. The early reviews are in (from media like News 1130, AM 1150, Castanet and Penticton Herald), and her publication was also ranked #1 in new releases, grief, mental health, happiness and textbooks on Amazon over the weekend.

There is a lot more to come from Mare on this topic and more. Looking forward to seeing this newly minted author fly to incredible heights.

If you would like to purchase a copy (and highly recommend you do!), visit the link on Amazon.

When a book editor works with a YouTuber

The thing about being a freelance editor is you can’t see the all the reactions your writer has during the highs and lows of the editing process.

I always try to be kind. You can be a ruthless editor without making someone feel like they’ve been run down by a speeding pickup with studded tires. I do my best to FaceTime or Skype my clients during the “low points” of the process, so that all my words are delivered sensitively. I can see their reaction, anticipate their concern or frustration, and try to alleviate their fears. When you’re in the weeds of the editing process, it can be a dark time for a writer — the moment they want to throw the work in a bin and light a match. Not one single writer needs fuel for those flames of self-doubt.

I spend a lot of time hand-holding through the low valleys, but usually we are done before they reach the very peak of the mountain — when they read positive feedback and are floating above the ground with happiness. Or most importantly, that last 10% of the climb they must face alone.

Gotta love that post-delivery glow

That experience has been true for me, until I worked with Mare McHale. She records the entire moment with her video camera — including when FedEx comes to her front door with four very heavy boxes holding no less than 200 books.

You get to hear the squeals of excitement. You see the sparkle in her eyes. That’s when the editor gets to climb the mountain peak too… I actually fell off my chair laughing so hard at her reaction, there was so. much. joy.

Then she unpacks all those lovely books in preparation for mailing out the pre-orders she received. Taking in the magnitude of her achievement, she starts crying in her kitchen and thanking people for believing in her, championing her on, and supporting her on the journey. And then you start crying, too.

Her book will be released on Jan. 23, and she has a special book launch celebration set for Jan. 25. (Tickets can be purchased here. Don’t wait – tickets are going quickly) In the meantime, she has several media interviews scheduled, as interest in the subject of mental health and the woman whose light is helping others find their way out of darkness grows.

I cannot wait for the celebration, when I can offer a toast to her achievement and soak in her joy — all in person.

Award winner: Searching for Sidney

The following story won the Neville Shanks Memorial Silver Award for Historical Writing, from the B.C.-Yukon Community Newspaper Association in 2006. It was originally published in the Coquitlam Now on Nov. 11, 2005.

Searching for Sidney: Closure for family comes in Holland

Geoff Peterson remembers when he first learned the name of RCAF Flying Officer Sidney Peterson. He was seven and playing in his grandfather’s house. He paused to look up at two black and white photographs on the wall.

“I remember asking my grandpa who these people were,” Peterson says, “and I remember that he explained that they were my dad’s brothers who gave their lives so we could be free.”

Peterson’s father, Roy, would also recount each Remembrance Day how he had looked up to his older brother, Sidney, and that the family never really knew what had happened — aside from the government letter that stated Sidney’s RAF Halifax bomber LV905 was shot down in Holland in May of 1944. Roy had travelled to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Jonkerbos, in the Dutch city of Nijmegen, when he was 20, to pay his respects to his brother. The Netherlands’ front line town cemetery was where two bodies from Sidney’s seven-man crew were buried, after being moved in 1953 from a local cemetery.

Flying Officer Sidney Peterson. Image courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada.

This was all Peterson, a Coquitlam resident, knew about Sidney — until four years ago.

Peterson’s father was contacted by the daughter of one of the crew members, who in turn put him in contact with a former army sergeant and a website devoted to the crash of the LV905 – detailing not only crew members and witness accounts from the day the Halifax crashed, but outlining the grassroots effort by a local man to spur the powers that be into conducting a salvage operation for the plane and its crew.

The man, Anton van der Plujm, was 16 at the time of the crash. He was walking to work in the early morning, following the LV905’s path as it returned from a bombing raid. The Germans had roped him into clearing the wreckage from the road, which included the rear section of the Halifax; the plane broke in two when it hit a dike beside a creek running through a field. The front came to rest in the marshy field.

“The thing was that the plane crashed and, because of the dike system they have there, it sank,” Peterson says. “Within a day or two days, it was completely submerged.”

The plane’s fuselage may have been out of sight, but it wasn’t out of van der Plujm’s mind. He became a thorn in the side of the municipal council of Hank, insistent that the villagers owed the crew a debt of honour in recovering their remains and giving them a proper burial. A plaque was erected in 2001, but van der Plujm refused to be placated. He wrote a letter to the late Prince Bernhard, the former Dutch prince consort who was also a war hero, and shortly thereafter, a foundation charged with the task of recovering the Halifax LV905 was created.

Permission from Hank council had to be granted before the salvage operation could take place in the Orange Field, which was by then farmland plowed every year. The politicians expressed concerns over cost and whether it was appropriate to disturb the crew’s remains. An international letter-writing campaign began to pressure council members to vote in favour of excavating the Halifax, and with a slim 11-10 majority, the salvage operation was approved last year.

After a year of preparations, Peterson and his father and brother travelled to Hank in September, determined to be there as the machines turned over the first piles of earth.

“The operation meant a lot to the family and especially my dad,” Peterson says, “because my dad looked up to him (Sidney) as a kid … It was so shocking to find out that maybe there was a possibility that the remains of all the crew could be found.

“Closure for my dad is a big thing. All these years of knowing that partial remains may have been found, but not knowing how much or where, has been tough.”

Even before they had left Canadian soil, the Dutch were intent on showing the Petersons their trademark hospitality. When they checked in for their KLM flight, the airline staff had found out the reason behind the family’s trek and bumped them up to first-class seats. Arriving in Amsterdam, Peterson said they grabbed their bags and, even before checking into their hotel, drove straight to the crash site.

“We wanted to go there because it was the day before the dig was to officially open,” he says, “so we wanted to have a moment to ourselves before the crowds got there.”

The family woke up early the next day and travelled to the town of Hank, just outside the Orange Field. The entire town’s population was filing out of their homes and making their way to the crash site.

“We get to Hank, and nothing’s changed in 60 years. It’s an old little village, a beautiful little place,” Peterson says, “and when we pulled in, the difference we saw from the day before was there were hundreds of people on their little bicycles coming out of all the driveways, out of all the houses, and riding this mile and a half to the crash site. “It was a huge deal in their town, and all the people came out to see it.”

Villagers joined the Petersons at the field, where the memorial plaque had been erected. As they were waiting for the speeches to begin, members of a Scottish pipe band that had been competing at a Highland Games a few fields away approached the Petersons to say that Dutch pipers had heard about the dig to take place — and wanted to play in a procession to mark the occasion.

“Three of the pipe bands at the games wanted to get together as one band and walk as they were playing as a memorial to the crew,” he says. After the band played, the mayor of Hank gave a speech and a little ceremony finished, the Petersons were swarmed by Dutch people and the international press.

“There were people there from all sorts of other villages who just wanted to come and talk to us, the family, and thank us for our family’s contribution to their liberation,” he recalls. “They were very thankful. The hospitality the Dutch have for Canadians is amazing.”

While the superstar status he and his family enjoyed that day was incredible, Peterson says he was more overcome by physically being at the crash site.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” he explains of his thoughts during the ceremony. “For never getting to meet someone like my uncle, and only knowing his photograph, to being a few feet from where he is buried – the place he was breathing for the last time – it was amazing.”

And with every pile of earth dug up and turned over, Peterson says he grew closer and closer to his uncle. A pocket watch made in Canada in 1941 was found among the debris – a requisite device carried by navigators in the day, as the plane’s instruments couldn’t be trusted during bombing raids, as the cabin pressure in elevation would distort the time. The arms of the pocket watch, which had been perfectly preserved in the soil, were frozen at the exact time of the crew’s death.

But the pocket watch wasn’t the only item recovered. Because the plane sank into a bed of clay, it and all the contents had been protected from air and subsequent oxidization. “They were pulling bullets out that were shiny, like brand new,” Peterson says, recalling how he thought he had grabbed a bullet in a mound of earth, but pulled out an entire round of ammunition on a belt.  “The aluminum they were pulling out, it was like new. It was like a time capsule.”

The bodies of the crew, however, didn’t fare as well in the clay. So far, excavators have recovered only bone fragments in different areas. The families still don’t know whose remains have been found, or where or how much. Peterson says they anticipate having to do DNA testing to confirm exactly who the remains belonged to.

“The thing is that my other uncle, Laurie, was shot down in South Africa, and all they knew was that the plane was shot out of the sky and nothing was ever found,” Peterson says. “To find some information about one of my uncles is great, and finding his remains would be even better. We’ll see I guess.”

The Petersons intend to return to the crash site next year when the dig will be completed and all the DNA findings will be received. But for the 35-year-old man from Coquitlam, the experience so far has deepened his already profound respect for those who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

“The trip meant a lot to me, and my brother as well,” he says. “I’d say most people our age don’t really understand the meaning behind Remembrance Day, or sacrifice, or war. It’s tough to blame them, people my age were brought up not knowing any different.

“My dad is the youngest of five in his family, and I’m the youngest of five in my family – so that puts 60 years between what happened and the age I’m at now.

“I don’t think people my age understand what happened, because their families are a bit younger, and most people today don’t have first-hand experience with the war.”


Award winner: Amanda’s Rainbow

Amanda’s legacy is a rainbow for sick kids

This story won the Canadian Community Newspaper Association’s gold Moosomin World-Spectator Trophy for best feature writing in 2003. The story was originally published on Page 3 of the Coquitlam Now on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002.

The story of little Amanda Hillstrom from Port Moody has not only made many a skeptic believe in rainbow-coloured angels, it could also help children in pain throughout Canada and the United States.

Amanda was only two-and-a-half years old in 1998 when she was diagnosed with brain stem glioma – a tumor in the brain stem – while vacationing in Palm Springs with her mom, Beverly, and five-month-old brother, Jonathan.

Amanda’s symptoms were difficult to pinpoint, and the cancer went undetected.

“Amanda always let me French braid her hair. I was never good at it, but she’d let me fuddle my way through,” Beverly recalls. “But then, it just hurt too much for her. That, in itself, didn’t ring any alarm bells for me.”

While visiting her parents that February, Beverly noticed Amanda banging her head against the wall. It was when the young toddler screamed out, grabbed her head and vomited that Beverly took her daughter to the Eisenhower Medical Center emergency ward. Doctors performed an MRI scan three hours later, which confirmed Beverly’s worst fears: a mass was located in Amanda’s brain stem.

Transferred by ambulance to Loma Linda Pediatric Hospital and University Medical Center, Beverly tried to balance caring for her son and her extremely ill daughter. As nurses cared for her baby, Beverly stayed with Amanda while she received a CT scan.

“I met with the doctor the next day, and he told us there was a mass in her brain stem – it’s called brain stem glioma,” she says, struggling for composure. “It was so entrenched in her brain stem that it was inoperable. It was even too dangerous to get a biopsy.”

Brain stem glioma is extremely rare in young children – and Amanda’s case was one of the youngest reported at Loma Linda. Doctors told Beverly her daughter had a two per cent chance of survival.

“But I figured, with two per cent, somebody’s got to survive.”

A week later, Amanda began aggressive proton radiation treatments, which aren’t available in Canada. The treatments targeted the brain stem mass precisely, and Amanda was the youngest patient ever to undergo the cutting-edge treatment.

“With Amanda, if I explained what was going on, she dealt with it okay. So I told her that she had a ball in her head that shouldn’t be there, and the doctor would shine his flashlight on it to get rid of it.”

It was during the three months of treatments in California that Beverly began noticing how her daughter learned to cope with the pain. While playing in the games room with her mom, Amanda toddled over to Beverly and said, “Mommy, the ball in my head is green.”

Taken aback at the time, Beverly says she had no idea what Amanda meant. Tracking Amanda’s treatments and moods in a journal, Beverly found her daughter described the ball in her head as five different colours over several weeks. Curious, Beverly took crayons and showed Amanda the five colours she had used to describe the ball in her head: green, orange, yellow, purple and pink. The two-year-old told her mom that the shades were all wrong, helped pick out the correct colours and described how she felt with each of the shades.

Those colours became instrumental in Amanda’s well-being. Beverly figured out that the colours could be used as indicators for Amanda’s level of pain: Green meant she was in the worst pain. Orange meant she was still in pain, but not as bad. Yellow told doctors Amanda was in pain, but getting better. Purple meant she was comfortable with the pain, and pink was the best of all – pain-free.

“The colours to children are unique and very specific,” Beverly explains, adding that doctors and nurses enjoyed using Amanda’s self-developed colour chart to help diagnose her. “We would go to a treatment, and the doctors would always ask her, ‘What colour are you today?'”

Five weeks later, Amanda’s MRI showed the treatments had destroyed 85 per cent of the tumor –and she came back home to Port Moody in May. The treatments were supposed to continue working over the next three months, and Beverly says Amanda was able to shed the steroid-induced weight and regrow the small amount of hair she had lost.

But in August of 1998, Amanda and her brother Jonathan came down with the flu. “Jonathan got better; Amanda didn’t,” her mom says.

Beverly took Amanda to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, and the doctor told her the tumor was back. After getting a second opinion from Amanda’s doctor in Loma Linda, Beverly resigned herself to palliative care at home – doing as much as she could to keep Amanda comfortable.

“Usually I could distract her from the pain, and that would stop her crying. But I remember this one day, it was so bad I couldn’t distract her. I began crying, and told her I didn’t know what to do. She stopped crying, grabbed my face in her hands and said, ‘I love you, baby.’ That’s what I used to say to her,” she says.

Beverly could help with the pain, but it didn’t help Amanda’s condition. Her paralysis grew, and her breath became laboured.

“On Oct. 28, she passed away at 4:30 a.m., and she was in my arms,” Beverly says quietly, wiping away tears. “Just before she passed away, I asked her if the angels had come, and she said ‘Yes.’ Then I asked her if she wanted to go play with the angels. She said ‘Yes.'”

Images of Amanda’s colours continually came to mind for Beverly, who wanted to write a book about the experience. That’s when she came up with the idea of Amanda’s Rainbow.

Children between the ages of two and 10 often have trouble explaining their pain to parents, doctors and nurses, which makes it difficult for medical professionals to conduct pain management. Beverly’s book explains Amanda’s own colour code of pain, and how parents can encourage their children to explain their chronic pain in the form of a colour.

It may sound far-fetched, but Beverly knew she had hit upon a much-needed program when she asked other children with chronic pain about colours.

“You should see it. When I asked them about their colours, the child’s face lights right up. ‘You know the secret?’

“I asked one girl what colour she had for really bad pain, and she responded right away, ‘Oh, it’s black.’ She said it so quickly, so nonchalantly, like it was obvious.”

Amanda’s Rainbow includes an explanation of the rainbow and a chart for the child to colour in. Beverly includes a lady-bug pin with the book, so children or parents can clip the pin onto the colour they’re feeling that day — letting physicians know how much pain they’re in.

She’s getting the word out about the book, and doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital, Canuck Place, Ronald McDonald House and Victoria General are waiting for copies of Amanda’s Rainbow. She sent copies down to Loma Linda, where Amanda was in treatment, and the book is slowly making its way down to California and to hospitals across North America.

“There’s been lots of research done with kids and colours, and kids in pain. But the key they’re missing is that the colours are specific to each child,” she explains. “If you give them a colour, they’re supposed to remember it and it doesn’t have as much meaning. I asked one boy if he saw the colours or felt them. He told me they were just there.

“You’re asking your child to share their rainbow with you, and they’re excited to share it with you.”

Beverly is producing the books out of her own pocket, and her mother and three sisters form an assembly line each Sunday — putting together the books, charts and pins so others can create a rainbow. All proceeds go back into producing more books, which will help more children. Any money left over will be donated to pediatric wards of hospitals.

“It’s a terrible thing to lose a child. People who have lost a parent can understand what it’s like to a degree, but it’s still not the same,” she says. “But doing this has helped an awful lot. Amanda’s life was really short, but gosh, she touched a lot of lives.

“My dream is to have an Amanda’s Rainbow chart above every hospital bed for every child.”

Beverly Hillstrom is holding a book launch for Amanda’s Rainbow at the Coquitlam Chapters location at Pinetree Village on Friday, Oct. 11, 2002. Beverly and parents of other children in the book will be on hand at 7:30 p.m. to explain children’s colours and the benefits of charting “rainbows.” For more information about Amanda’s Rainbow, check out the initiative’s website.

Telling the story of a new university

UBC’s Okanagan campus launched its inaugural campaign in 2018, telling stories of research and learning experiences uniquely available in Kelowna. I contributed to this initiative by writing two stories.

Aging Well

This story showcased researchers drawn to the Okanagan region’s cluster of viticulture and wine production, and the unique and meaningful connections with growers and producers to the academic institution.

Design courtesy UBC Okanagan

Facing the Challenge

The annual Live Case Challenge inspires business management students to innovate and think on their feet to solve complex problems. For 2017, SunRype asked teams of students for ideas that could help their company grow and meet the needs of health-conscious consumers. It’s an intense competition, and the stakes are high.

Dan Hamhuis’ first interview

As the Sports Editor for the Smithers Interior News, I got a tip that a local kid had been chosen for the B.C. hockey team to compete at the Canada Winter Games. I interviewed Dan Hamhuis at his family home in the summer of 1998.

I followed his career to Prince George, where his coach at the time told me that “We’ll be hearing about Dan for years to come.” Dan went on to play for the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and now the Dallas Stars – with appearances at the Olympics for Team Canada.

Here is the first profile on Dan Hamhuis that appeared in the local newspaper.

He’s quiet and definitely not one to brag. But you can tell by the smile on his face that he’s pretty darn happy.

Dan Hamhuis, 15, from Smithers, made the hockey B.C. Best Ever team, and is the only player north of Kamloops to be chosen. Hamhuis will be one of six defencemen playing for B.C. at the 1999 Canadian Winter Games in Corner Brook, Nfld. next February.

Hamhuis found out that he made the team during the last tryout camp held in Osoyoos, that ran July 24 to Aug. 2 after a one-on-one interview with the coaches. The coaches told him that he had a good camp, and they thought he played really strong that morning.  And then they said the magic words: Come play for us.

“It was hard not to smile,” Hamhuis said, as he cracks a grin. Just before the interview, Hamhuis said he that he was a little nervous as to what the verdict was going to be. “I’ve been there before and it’s the same feeling,” he said of the pressure.

But it wasn’t time to kick back and relax just yet. The kids who were picked stayed until the Sunday for team practices, after hearing the news Thursday. The next time the group will be together will be Dec. 26 to 30 in Campbell River. They have a schedule of games against junior B teams from all over the province: Campbell River Storm Jr. B, North Island Junior B all Stars and Nanaimo Clippers.

For now, he’s working on what he needs to improve on. He got a report card where the coaches evaluated him on his skills, coachability and his attitude. And what he got back from them was a glowing report card. If it was a school report card, he’d be on the honour roll. But it’s not like he’s going to brag about it.

“I don’t evaluate myself, I just like to play hockey,” he said. “But it’s neat to see what other people think of my play and it’s also really nice to have them tell me what I have to improve.”

Hamhuis feels that age is definitely a factor at camps like these, and that him being a year younger than most of the guys trying out didn’t help his chances. He says that his work ethic and his ability to follow directions put him ahead of the cut. Every day pre-ice instruction was held, where the coaches would draw out the drills on the board and then go to the ice, and see how everyone follows directions. Hamhuis says that he tried to remember little things, like moving his feet while on the ice between drills, he tried to do them all.

“It’s harder to pay attention to those things as you get tired but you try to keep focused,” he said.

“There were some really good players there, but they didn’t use the systems or didn’t know how to use the systems,” he added. “They (the coaches) looked for specifics.” 

Leadership qualities were also an asset during this camp. Although he’s quiet and shy off the ice, he still possesses qualities of a leader.

“With our Smithers team, I try to lead by example,” Hamhuis said. “But with so many good players, it’s hard to lead example. You have to be a bit more vocal.”