RED DEER - While it’s a common sight every winter to see outdoor rinks across Canada full of youngsters learning to skate, you’ll also see the odd adult hitting the ice for the very first time.
Although admittedly “late to the party”, Duane Moleni took the opportunity this past winter to embrace Canada’s pastime. Originally from New Zealand, he moved to Canada 11 years ago, but only decided to learn to skate this year.
“Peer pressure,” Moleni said of his motivation to take up hockey. “When you’re in a country like Canada, and hockey’s a national sport, I think I’d being doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t come out and try to at least learn to skate. Winter in most parts of this country is six-plus months long, so I’d go crazy if I didn’t come out and do this.”
Moleni works with the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.), which hosted the Learn to Skate in Red Deer, an initiative the Hockey Alberta Foundation partnered to help deliver. The Learn to Skate program ran Saturdays during the winter at an outdoor community rink, offering New Canadians of all skill levels a chance to play hockey, or learn the basics of the game.
“It’s fantastic, the facility and the ice is fantastic, as is the support from the Hockey Alberta Foundation,” Moleni said. “You’ve got kids playing hockey, and you’ve got kids who are learning to skate working with coaches as well, which is where I’m at. It’s fantastic, just little techniques that when I first started learning how to skate, I had no idea, and no one showed me what to do or gave me any tips, so it’s just helping me get that confidence to keep going and try and a little bit harder, and do a little bit more, and lo and behold, I’ll be doing a toe-pick triple-axle in no time.”
A former Rugby player, Moleni said the concept of hockey is something he’s still learning, even after living in Canada for more than ten years.
“It blows my mind that in this sport, you can go crazy fast on a surface like ice, with steel blades that are miniscule, and you make it look effortless," he said. "Then you throw in a puck and stick-handling, and navigating through players that are out there that are allowed to hit you, it blows my mind, that’s why I love the sport.”
After more than a decade of watching the sport, Moleni can pinpoint his love of the sport to one source - one of the hardest-hitting, toughest hockey players of all-time.
“When I first started watching the sport, Scott Stevens was (my idol), he was awesome," Moleni said. "He’s big, he’s strong, skates really well obviously, but the guy was just physically dominant. That’s not what hockey’s about, and hockey has changed since then.”
Moleni’s determination and attitude caught the attention of many at the rink, especially the people who were helping him.
"Duane is one of the big reasons why we had so much fun working with the C.A.R.E. program this winter," said Tim Leer, the Hockey Albert Foundation’s Executive Director. "Although we were there as part of the Every Kid Every Community program, Duane proved that it’s never too late to learn how to play."
With a full season on the ice now under his belt, Moleni said he’ll continue to work on his skating and skills, and without a doubt will be found out on the ice once again every Saturday this coming winter.
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