A memorial hockey camp being held in memory of two slain Spruce Grove brothers is offering young goalies a unique opportunity.
It’s the first year of R&R Memorial Camp, which was started by Tracy Stark, the mother of Ryder and Radek, brothers who were killed by their father in a murder-suicide more than six years ago.
For Stark, the free camp is not only a chance to provide a great experience for kids, but it’s also an opportunity to honour her sons, both of whom were big hockey players who dreamed of playing in the NHL.
“It’s kind of emotional, overwhelming to see all these little kids wearing the R&R and sticking the stickers on and doing it. … It’s for my boys,” she said. “If they were here, they’d be part of it. I know my youngest, he would just be so happy he got a free jersey and free sticker and a free water bottle. He would be all for that.”
The boys were only 13 and 11 years old when they were killed at the end of 2016.
Nic Melnychuk, the lead coach for the camp, was friends with Ryder and his younger brother Radek, and also Ryder’s teammate. The chance for him to be part of the camp that honours the brothers is special for Melnychuk.
“Honestly, it’s an honour and I hope we can keep their legacy alive and I want to do this camp every year,” he said.
“When I was coaching and playing it helped me improve my game and now that I’m just coaching I just want to give back to these kids and get them better.”
The intention of the camp is to remove the financial burden that comes with having a child who wants to attend a goalie camp. The camp was funded by sponsorships, cash donations and equipment and swag donations from the local community.
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“We had a lot of good feedback with goalies and people were saying, ‘My son’s a goalie or my daughter’s a goalie but there’s not a lot of goalie camps for my kids to be enrolled in,’” Stark said.
Kaydence Danilkiewicz, one of 24 goalies participating in the camp, said she’s already learning a lot.
“The skating is going to help me in later goalie things,” said the eight-year-old, who is enjoying focusing on just goaltending skills.
The camp is something that Stark feels her boys would be proud of.
“They would love it. They (would be) proud of where we’ve gone with their society and I just want to get bigger and bigger and get our names out there and help more and more kids across Alberta,” she said.
— with files from Slav Kornik, Global News
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