Young hockey player gives speech of his life in front of hero

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Rogers Hometown Hockey provided a platform for one young hockey player to share his passionate message with the students of Manachaban Middle School.

On Friday, hundreds of students packed the school gymnasium for a pre-weekend pep rally that included former Calgary Flames star Robyn Regehr, two-time Olympic gold medallist Gina Kingsbury and half a dozen members of the P3 Sports Cochrane Hockey Academy.

“They … came with a theme of fair play and what it means to be on a team,” said Manachaban principal Anne Kromm. “All the students wore their favourite team’s jersey or team colours as a celebration of sport.”

While Regehr and Kingsbury each worked up the crowd with words of wisdom about teamwork and sacrifice – it was 14-year-old Dace Carlson, a forward with the Alberta Minor Midget AAA League’s AC Avalanche – who impressed the group the most with his heartfelt speech about how hockey has helped him build “character skills, being a good sport, and sticking up for your teammates.”

“Those are the things that you hold on to,” said the teenager. “That’s what I love about hockey.”

Avs coach Kenton Levesque, who also works at P3, said he was proud of his player for bridging the gap so eloquently for the students between sport and life.

“(It was about) what you learn from playing sports, the respect factor of playing hockey, the friendships you make … everything it teaches you along the way,” Levesque said. “He did an awesome job.”

“I think his message was really great,” echoed ex-NHLer Regehr, a Stanley Cup champion. “I really enjoyed it – all those things that he’s been learning while playing hockey. In my opinion, that’s the most important.”

Carlson is starting to map out a plan for himself that hopefully takes him through junior hockey to a scholarship with an NCAA team – then on to the big show himself, just like Regehr.

The former pro said, no matter what path Carlson takes, his understanding of the skills hockey has taught him – both on and off the ice – will give him what he needs to be a success.

“It’s cradle to grave,” said Regehr of the lessons of the game. “That’s what’s going to help him transition on to life.”

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