CENTRE ICE PODCAST - EPISODE TWELVE: CASSIE CAMPBELL-PASCAL AND STEVEN TSUJIURA
Episode Twelve of the Centre Ice Podcast features a pair of players who coincidentally both played in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, one for Team Canada, and one for Japan - Cassie Campbell-Pascal and Steven Tsujiura
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ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH - KASSY BETINOL
Kassy Betinol credits her brothers for getting her into the sport that has given her everything.
ASHLEY SHRODE AND ALLYSON BENDFELD NAMED REGIONAL FINALISTS FOR BFL FEMALE COACH OF THE YEAR
Congratulations to Ashley Shrode and Allyson Bendfeld on being named Alberta’s 2021 BFL Female Coaches of the Year by Hockey Canada.
ALBERTA BUILT SUMMER CAMPS REGISTRATION NOW OPEN
Alberta Built Skill Camp options are now available for July and August. Each camp is focused on developing specific individual and team skills, and follow the principles of the Long Term Player Development (LTPD) model adopted by Hockey Alberta and Hockey Canada.
HOCKEY FOR LIFE
Alberta’s hockey community is filled with incredible people and incredible stories. Hockey Alberta wants to share your stories and celebrate the hockey community in our province. Submit your own or nominate someone from your community whose story deserves to be told!
STEVE TSUJIURA > | KASSY BETINOL > | SUBMIT YOUR OWN >
Asian Heritage Month - Alex Le
Alex Le was going to school to become an Emergency Medical Technician at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, when a classmate noticed his keen interest in hockey and suggested he get involved with a minor association.
Two weeks into his first trainer role, the Northwest Calgary team travelled to Chicago for a tournament. The camaraderie Le experienced between the staff and the team was enough to hook him for life.
“It hooked me. I wanted to be a part of that moving forward,” said Le. “I watched the Calgary Buffaloes win the Mac’s tournament in 2008 and I remember thinking, ‘that would be such a cool experience as a trainer - being down there, right in those benches in the Saddledome.’”
Le played minor hockey in Saskatoon until he was 13, before moving to Calgary in 1995. He joined the Northwest Calgary Athletics Association as the trainer for the Midget A Bruins in 2007. The following season he moved to the Calgary Buffaloes Hockey Association.
In 2019, life came full circle. Le celebrated in the benches of the Saddledome as the Buffaloes won the Mac’s Tournament.
Having worked with players of all ages between U14-U21 in the Buffaloes association, Le looked to the Team Alberta program to expand his trainer resume.
“Some of the trainers I had worked with said it was a great experience and I’m always looking to learn and grow. That year (2015), I decided to throw my hat into the ring and I was luckily accepted,” said Le. “The long days were worth every single second. Learning everything that Team Alberta puts into coaching and into developing players and setting them up for success. And not only that but it’s setting us trainers up for success as well. And I just loved that experience.”
Le has volunteered for Hockey Alberta on several occasions, including as the U16 Equipment Manager and Trainer in 2015 and 2016.
In his professional life, Le is employed by one of Hockey Alberta’s long-time partners and supporters, ATB Financial.
“What makes me proud about working with ATB Financial is that it’s purely Albertan. It’s a bank that’s here for Albertans, made for Albertans,” said Le. “We’re here to support Albertans through everything and I think that is the same as Hockey Alberta. We share the same core values, we share the same goals, just wanting to elevate Albertans in their journey.”
Part of Le’s journey includes growing up in Saskatchewan and Alberta as an Asian-Canadian.
“You face adversity here and there. Racial comments and racial slurs being thrown out whether it be by a parent or kid, it happens,” said Le. “Having to learn that and deal with that at such a young age. It was a good learning experience, it’s not the greatest learning experience, but it helps shape you as a person in terms of resiliency.”
Le believes there are kids out there that do experience the same adversity. His ability to relate to what they are going through and help navigate the situation establishes Le as a role model for the next generation. Through his trainer role, his hope is that he can help players be the best people they can be.
“I was listening to talk radio and they were talking about success in hockey and how it’s defined. The person who was talking about it said, ‘success doesn’t mean your child is playing in the NHL. Success is defined by is your child still using those skills in their life. If your child is 50 years old and still playing beer league hockey, that is success in hockey,’” said Le. “That really resonated with me because my Dad, who was an immigrant to Canada from Vietnam, turned on the TV one night and he saw the NHL and was captivated. He hoped that I could learn something from that and use it in my life. I didn’t make the NHL – I wasn’t even close. But those skills that I learned, like the cliché things about teamwork, have given me life skills.”
Le started in hockey at a young age and whether it be through playing, working as a trainer or the relationships he’s formed, he still finds joy in the game. Now married with a wife and two children, Le doesn’t see his life without hockey.
22 Albertans listed in NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings
RED DEER - NHL Central Scouting has released its final rankings for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, with 22 Albertans making an appearance - 17 skaters, and five goaltenders.
A pair of Team Alberta alumni and Edmonton Oil Kings teammates lead the way in their respective categories, as Sebastian Cossa was named the top North American goaltender, while Dylan Guenther was the highest ranked Albertan among North American Skaters, coming in at number five.
Two more team Alberta alumni are among the top 20 North American skaters: defenceman Corson Ceulemans, and forward Colton Dach.
The full list of Albertans named to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings can be found below:
|Final Rank||Player||Position||Last Amateur Club||League|
|NORTH AMERICAN SKATERS|
|5||Dylan Guenther||Forward||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL|
|14||Corson Ceulemans||Defence||Brooks Bandits||AJHL|
|19||Colton Dach||Forward||Saskatoon Blades||WHL|
|45||Olen Zellweger||Defence||Everett Silvertips||WHL|
|59||Sean Tschigerl||Forward||Calgary Hitmen||WHL|
|60||Zack Ostapchuk||Forward||Vancouver Giants||WHL|
|63||Jayden Grubbe||Forward||Red Deer Rebels||WHL|
|93||Kyle Masters||Defence||Red Deer Rebels||WHL|
|105||Owen Pederson||Forward||Winnipeg Ice||WHL|
|142||Dru Krebs||Defence||Medicine Hat Tigers||WHL|
|145||Marc Lajoie||Defence||Tri-City Americans||WHL|
|151||Lucas Ciona||Forward||Seattle Thunderbirds||WHL|
|190||Zack Stringer||Forward||Lethbridge Hurricanes||WHL|
|191||Riley Ginnell||Forward||Brandon Wheat Kings||WHL|
|192||Ryker Evans||Defence||Regina Pats||WHL|
|208||Noah Serdachny||Forward||Salmon Arm Silverbacks||BCHL|
|219||Gannon Laroque||Defence||Victoria Royals||WHL|
|NORTH AMERICAN GOALTENDERS|
|1||Sebastian Cossa||Goaltender||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL|
|12||Talyn Boyko||Goaltender||Tri-City Americans||WHL|
|18||Taylor Gauthier||Goaltender||Prince George Cougars||WHL|
|28||Gage Alexander||Goaltender||Winnipeg Ice||WHL|
|32||Ethan Kruger||Goaltender||Brandon Wheat Kings||WHL|
George McCorry receives 2021 Hockey Canada Officiating Award
Congratulations to George McCorry on receiving the 2021 Hockey Canada Officiating Award.
Over the last 55 years, McCorry’s name has become synonymous with officiating in Alberta.
Donning the black and white for the first time at 12 years old, McCorry achieved the top level of refereeing certification, Level VI, by the time he was 30. He took on national and international assignments for Hockey Canada, including three national university championship appearances and a role in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. Two years later, McCorry refereed 10 games in the NHL.
While the list of on-ice accomplishments is lengthy, his continued work developing officials may be more meaningful to the long-term success of the game. For over 25 years, McCorry has been an instructor for the National Referee Certification Program, and he’s been supervising officials in Alberta for 38 years. He has served as referee-in-chief with Hockey Alberta and as chair of the Hockey Alberta Referees’ Council. Since 1999, McCorry has been the vice-president and supervisor of officials for the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
On and off the ice, McCorry has been keeping the game in check and teaching the next generation of officials how to do the same.
Centre Ice Podcast - Episode Twelve: Cassie Campbell-Pascal and Steven Tsujiura
Episode Twelve of the Centre Ice Podcast features a pair of players who coincidentally both played in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, one for Team Canada, and one for Japan.
With the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association’s Secret Dream Gap Tour making a stop in Calgary, and being covered on Sportsnet, we chat with two-time Olympic gold medalist Cassie Campbell-Pascal, who is part of the broadcast team for the event.
And, with May being Asian Heritage Month, we also sit down with former Medicine Hat Tiger standout Steven Tsujiura to talk about his roots, his time playing hockey in Alberta, and where the game has taken him.
Episode Links: PWHPA Secret Dream Gap Tour > | Ashley Shrode, Allyson Bendfeld win BFL Female Coach of the Year Awards > | George McCorry wins Hockey Canada Officiating Award > | Volunteer with Hockey Alberta > | Asian Heritage Month: Steven Tsujiura >
Centre Ice is the brand-new Hockey Alberta podcast, featuring the latest news and views on amateur hockey across the province. Subscribe now on your favourite podcast app!
Asian Heritage Month - Kassy Betinol
Kassy Betinol credits her brothers for getting her into the sport that has given her everything.
“My journey with hockey started when I was really young with my two older brothers,” said Betinol. “My brother was a goalie and I really wanted to be a goalie so I went to all of his goalie lessons and would watch all of his practices.”Her favourite memories growing up were the hours spent in the basement with the goalie pads strapped on as her brothers fired shots at her; but Betinol’s dreams of being a goalie were dashed as she became an offensive force on the ice.
Becoming a fixture with Team Alberta, Betinol’s hockey journey took her from her hometown in Okotoks to the Okanagan where she played in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) throughout her high school, before traveling across the border to University of Minnesota-Duluth to play NCAA Division I hockey.
“Being in the Team Alberta environment, a more organized and professional environment helped me develop,” said Betinol. “Growing up in Okotoks, it’s such a nice size small town and moving out in high school, being away from my parents and having to make decisions on my own made me less homesick when I got to Duluth. Coming to the (United) States has always been my dream. Playing in the NCAA, in front of all these crazy fans, has been unbelievable.”
After a rookie NCAA season cut short due to COVID-19, Betinol earned an invite to Canada’s National Women’s Development Team 2020 Summer Camp. Even though the camp – her first with Hockey Canada – was cancelled due to the pandemic, Betinol spent time on Zoom calls with the top players from across the nation.
“Moving forward, I want to work as hard as I can to get as far as I can within the (Hockey Canada) program,” said Betinol. “I want to have these experiences to use to give back to the game later and guide the younger players. The women’s game is growing and in the right strides.”
Betinol wants to utilize her experiences to give back to the game - including being an Asian-Canadian female hockey player.
“You don’t see a lot of players with Asian backgrounds, so it’s really cool to say that I have that. Being a little bit different means a lot to me,” said Betinol. “I’m in a pretty fortunate spot to say that I haven’t had to face many challenges. Every town that I’ve lived in and every program that I’ve played for have been super welcoming and I can’t see I’ve had any crazy problems with it.”
With two seasons under her belt with Minnesota-Duluth, Betinol is already eyeing professional opportunities for her post-university career. The opportunities hockey has continued to give Betinol are endless and she owes the game, and her brothers, everything.
2021 BFL Female Coach of the Year
Congratulations to Ashley Shrode and Allyson Bendfeld on being named Alberta’s 2021 BFL Female Coaches of the Year by Hockey Canada. Through the BFL Female Coach of the Year, Hockey Canada’s mission is to recognize coaches who are leaders in hockey and leaders in life, both in community and high performance leagues.
2021 Alberta BFL Female Coach of the Year – Community
Shrode has coached with the Barrhead Minor Hockey Association for nine years, currently with the U9 program. She embodies sportsmanship and fair play by ensuring players receive equal playing time and are treated with respect, and she provides a positive experience to players, officials and parents. Shrode is committed to the development of players on and off the ice, as she works with minor hockey associations and mentors coaches through her through her company called GAS’D, an acronym for Goals and Attitude Skills Development.
“Being selected for this award is a great accomplishment and a great reminder that it does matter,” said Shrode. “I don’t coach for the recognition, I coach to be a part of the athletes milestone in achieving their goals. Being able to help with their core fundamentals in skill development is so rewarding.”
Whether it is through coaching with Barrhead, Team Alberta, Whitecourt Minor Hockey or her company, Shrode is dedicated to the sport of hockey, to the players and to making the sport grow.
2021 Alberta BFL Female Coach of the Year – High Performance
Bendfeld is a 15-year veteran behind the bench who currently works with the Olds College Broncos of the ACAC. Her coaching philosophy emphasizes what can be controlled and reacting to situations on and off the ice. She believes that within the game of hockey, everyone is working to be the best versions of themselves and that mistakes will always occur no matter how you are involved in the game.
“I am extremely honoured to be nominated and then to be selected (for this award). Coaching has always been something that I do to have fun and give back to the game that I love so much,” said Bendfeld. “It is always nice to be recognized for the time, hard work and dedication that it takes to coach, I hope it inspires others to do the same.”
As a former student-athlete, Bendfeld can relate to the pressure her players feel when trying to balance academics and athletics. Her connection to the players underscores the importance of the development of each player by focusing on a foundation of well-being, making her an excellent role model for the young adults with whom she works.
BFL Female Coach of the Year
Coaches from coast to coast were nominated for Hockey Canada’s BFL Female Coach of the Year award. A selection committee chose the provincial and territorial winners for each category based on fair play and sportsmanship, emphasis on emotional and physical well-being of players, and commitment to developing every player and dedication to the game on and off the ice.
The selection committee consisted of Olympic gold medalists, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Gina Kingsbury and Caroline Ouellette; Steve Lacoste vice-president of sports and leisure with BFL; and Teal Gove, manager of hockey development with Hockey Canada.
Each provincial and territorial winner receives a $1,000 bursary. A national winner from each category will be announced in June.
Asian Heritage Month - Steve Tsujiura
Born to Japanese-Canadian parents who were interned in British Columbia during World War II, Steve Tsujiura grew up skating the streets of Coaldale - literally.
“When I was a kid, the town made an outdoor rink, so I would get home from school put on my skates and skate down the road. We’d play on the rink and then I’d skate back home,” recalled Tsujiura. “My toes would be freezing so my mom would put me on a vent heater and bring me hot chocolate.”
As Tsujiura’s love for the game grew, he travelled to nearby Lethbridge and Taber to play competitive hockey before becoming a fixture with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers in 1978.
For three consecutive seasons Tsujiura led the Tigers in points, capping his junior career with an impressive 389 points in 243 games. Along the way, he was named WHL Player of the Year (1981), Most Sportsmanlike Player (1980, 1981) and a WHL Second All-Star (1981). And in the 1981 National Hockey league draft, Tsujiura was chosen in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Flyers (205th overall).
Over the next eight seasons, Tsujiura found his stride in the American Hockey League (AHL) where he spent most of his career with the Maine Mariners. While his NHL dream may have dwindled, his hockey journey was far from over.
The Canadian love affair with the game that started with frozen toes and hot chocolate, took Tsujiura overseas where he played in leagues in Italy and Switzerland from 1989-1994.
Then, in preparation for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Japan began developing its national hockey program. As part of an effort to ice a competitive team in Nagano, the Japanese Men’s National Team extended invitations to six North Americans, including Tsujiura.
“Marching into the stadium in the opening ceremonies and seeing all the different countries was an experience I won’t forget,” said Tsujiura. “It was a very cool experience. We played in the earlier pool with countries like France, Austria, Kazakhstan and they took the winner of each side to play against Canada, U.S, Czech Republic. That’s how Olympic hockey was set-up then.”
Following the 1998 Olympics, Tsujiura retired from his playing career to step behind the bench as head coach of the Japanese National Team. Having no experience in coaching prior to taking over as bench boss, Tsujiura saw it as an opportunity to stay in the game.
“It was my first foray into coaching, which was interesting. I didn’t get a team for a whole season so I coached different events. I would be in Japan and I was also a second assistant coach for a team in Portland, Maine, which was in the AHL, so I was also home a month,” said Tsujiura. “It was probably harder on my wife, but I was kind of an absentee Dad. I would be home for three weeks, drive the kids around or look after them. I wouldn’t call it the best situation, but it was a unique situation.”
After four years traveling between the Japan and the United States, Tsujiura returned to Maine to settle with his family.
Because of hockey, Tsujiura was able to call the country from which his ancestors had immigrated home for a short while.
“My parents were born in Canada, they were born on the west coast. They were uprooted when the war broke out and got interned in interior B.C., my Mom and Dad really never talked about anything,” recalled Tsujiura. “It’s very sad because it’s a part of our history, that’s just the way it was. But they set up a good life in Alberta.”
With resilient parents, who had everything taken away from them and were forced to start a new, Tsujiura took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves throughout his hockey career. Never wavering from his Alberta roots, he credits hockey for teaching him some of the most valuable life lessons he has learned.
Asian Heritage Month - Larry Kwong
Larry Kwong’s NHL career lasted all of a New York minute, though that minute changed the game forever.
Born in Vernon, B.C. in 1923, to a Chinese-Canadian mother and a Chinese immigrant father, Kwong was one of 15 children. Kwong’s family owned and operated a grocery store, though as a Chinese-Canadian family, the household faced segregation, including being banned from voting.
During the winter months, in skates a size too big and magazines taped to his shins for pads, Kwong would spend hours on frozen ponds playing shinny with his brothers. In the evenings, they would huddle around the radio listening to Foster Hewitt call the game from Toronto and as many Canadian kids, he dreamed of one day hearing his name. Having never played organized hockey and in the days of the “Original Six,” that dream seemed a world away.
At 16, Kwong joined the Vernon Hydrophones and quickly became an offensive phenom, helping the Hydrophones to a provincial championship in 1941. Though he excelled on the ice, Kwong felt the repercussions of being a Chinese-Canadian in the 40’s, facing discrimination on and off the ice.
But his love for the game kept him pushing boundaries.
“I was afraid to tell my family, because if I did tell them that, the first thing they would say is ‘You’re not going anymore.’ And that means I couldn’t play hockey or sports. I toughed it out, just toughed it out,” Kwong said in a 2013 CBC article.
The success Kwong found with the Hydrophones did not go unnoticed as he earned himself a tryout with the Trail Smoke Eaters, a semi-professional team. Players with the Smoke Eaters received a high-paying job at the local smelter. Being Chinese, Kwong was stripped of the job at the smelter, instead spending his days working as a bellhop at a hotel.
During this time, the impact of World War II was being felt across the world and Kwong moved to Nanaimo to build war materials by day and skate with the Nanaimo Clippers by night, still dreaming of one day playing in the NHL. As the war raged overseas, Kwong set his dreams aside for his country and enlisted in the army.
Kwong’s basic training stationed him in Red Deer, where he played for the army’s Red Deer Wheelers. NHL players returning home to enlist in the military were recruited by rival teams and Kwong soon found himself facing off against men living his dream - and holding his own against them. As his comrades were sent overseas, Kwong was instructed to stay in Red Deer to play hockey to entertain the troops. And this is where he began catching the eye of professional scouts.
After the war, Kwong returned to the Smoke Eaters, where he led the team in scoring and earned another championship. In 1946, the New York Rangers extended a try-out invitation.
Topping out at five feet, six inches, Kwong’s agile speed and smooth stick handling landed him an assignment to the Ranger’s farm team, the New York Rovers. A fan favourite, his nicknames, “King Kwong” and “Chinese Clipper” echoed Madison Square Gardens during Rovers games.
Nearing the end of Kwong’s second season with the Rovers, the New York Rangers were traveling to Montreal with a line-up riddled with injuries when Kwong got the call.
“When I had the chance to become a Ranger I was really excited. I said to myself: That’s what I wanted since I was a young boy. I wanted to play in the NHL,” Kwong said in an article in the New York Times.
On March 13, 1948, Kwong dressed in his first NHL game. On that night, he became the first player of Asian heritage and the first person of colour to play in the NHL. He found a spot on the bench and that’s where he stayed until he got the nod late in the third period.
Kwong did not score, he did not get an assist, he did not get a penalty, nor did he let Montreal score. He played his first and last shift in the NHL. Kwong’s NHL career was over in a New York minute. But he opened the gate for many to follow.
Over the next five years, Kwong played in the minors, demonstrating blistering speed and unmatched goal scoring abilities. He then moved overseas to play in British and Swiss leagues before transitioning to coaching.
Despite many efforts to derail his hockey career, Kwong accomplished his goal of playing in the NHL and is an honoured member in the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (2016 Founder’s Award Recipient) and B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame (2013) as a pioneer of the game.
Kwong returned to Calgary where he opened a grocery store and was active in his community. He lost both of his legs due to poor circulation, yet his resilient spirit carried him to the gym into his 90’s.
Kwong passed away in 2018 at the age of 94.
Centre Ice Podcast - Episode Eleven: Lacey Senuk & Kyle Rehman
Episode Eleven of the Centre Ice Podcast focuses on one of the most under-appreciated positions in the game: the official, featuring interviews with two of Alberta’s biggest success stories in Level Five Official Lacey Senuk, and NHL Referee Kyle Rehman.
Episode Links: Coach of the Month: Brad McCoy > | Coach of the Month:Tracey Desmarais > | Coach of the Month: Derek McEwan > | Coach of the Month:Lee Zalasky > | Volunteer Appreciation Week > | Breakfast with Beckett >
Centre Ice is the brand-new Hockey Alberta podcast, featuring the latest news and views on amateur hockey across the province. Subscribe now on your favourite podcast app!
Breakfast with Beckett: The life of a U11 Goalie
STRATHCONA – As a goaltender, actor, and radio host, Beckett William is a young man of many talents.
Life as a 10-year-old goaltender can be busy navigating through school, hockey practices, and spending time with friends. For one hockey player in Strathcona, he has found the time to add in so much more.
It all started when Beckett was three years old and learned to skate thanks to the influence of his grandfather. As soon as he was able, Beckett began playing organized hockey with the Strathcona Warriors Minor Hockey Association. When he got to his second year of U9, the team was giving all the players a chance to try playing goalie, and it didn’t take long for Beckett to fall in love with the position.
“I wanted to (play hockey) because my Grandpa was a hockey player, and I wanted to skate like him, so I started skating and we got me a stick and I just started playing hockey,” said Beckett. “I get to meet great people and friends on the team, and it’s fun getting pucks in my chest.”
What may be more impressive is how Beckett has filled his time away from the rink.
He auditioned for a role in an upcoming movie called Connecting Flights. Beckett landed the role due to his ability to do a British accent on top of using his regular voice. The movie began filming in March 2020 but was then postponed to July due to COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta. Once completed, the film was released in early 2021. Beckett attributes his years of playing hockey as something that helped with his teamwork during the film making process.
“I’ve seen myself on a screen before, but not in a movie – and I was just like this is really cool, I want to keep doing this,” said Beckett.
In February, Beckett was asked if he would like to expand his talents and begin hosting his own radio show on Sound Sugar Radio where he could discuss his three favourite things: film making, acting, and hockey.
It was shortly after that when Breakfast with Beckett was born. Since his first episode, Beckett has featured such guests as Andrew Ference, Tim Hunter, and Gene Principe. His favourite part about hosting a radio show is getting to know different kinds of people and hearing their experiences.
“I was on an interview on my Grandpa’s show (Bill & Paul Face the Music), and we went off air and he just asked me if I wanted to do my own radio show, and I was like definitely, then two weeks later we did the first episode,” said Beckett.
There has been a lot of excitement packed into Beckett’s first decade, but he says he hopes to continue with acting, radio hosting, and hockey for the foreseeable future.
Ideally, he will one day star in a big feature film such as Batman or Spiderman, or even take a role as the goalie in the Mighty Ducks series. Even if he becomes a movie star one day, Beckett says he will always make time to play hockey.