STRATHCONA – Jason Michaud is just trying to create better people. Nikolas Michaud is just using the lessons his dad is teaching him.
Jason and Nikolas were named the 2022 the Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, two of the prestigious Hockey Alberta Awards presented by ATB. This marks the first time a father and son duo has received these awards.
“I’m honoured and humbled myself, but I’m super proud of (Nikolas),” said Jason. “I was blessed to have great coaches. I’ve always just wanted to model my craft to not only be a good hockey coach, but a coach of humans, to make kids better people.”
Tamara Dawson saw first-hand the positive influence the Michauds had on the team and in the community. She was one of the numerous people from the Strathcona area who nominated Jason and Nikolas.
“My son had been in hockey for a couple years before he had Jason as a coach,” said Dawson. “We really noticed a big difference with positive role modeling and encouraging the kids on sportsmanship, being a good person and working your hardest.”
Jason has now coached Dawson’s son for three years in the Strathcona Minor Hockey Association.
“It’s not always about winning, it’s about trying your best and developing the players as people first and then as players. He’s always done a really good job at that,” said Dawson.
Growing up playing hockey, Jason is now a teacher by trade. When his sons began playing hockey, he saw the chance to coach as an opportunity to join his love of the game and teaching skills.
“I’ve always said if I can have every single player sign up to play next year, that’s how I rate myself as a coach,” said Jason. “All 16 of my players last year are playing again this year. They’re all good people, doing wonderful things in the community. That’s the most important thing – kids who want to play hockey for life long and just be good people on and off the ice.”
The apples have not fallen far from the tree. Jason’s emphasis on the importance of being active in the community and giving back has been instilled into his sons, Ryan and Nikolas.
Jillian Michaud, Jason’s daughter and sister of Ryan and Nikolas, has a rare genetic disorder called Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS). The syndrome is a developmental disorder. Over the years, Ryan and Nikolas have hosted various events to raise funds and awareness for SMS. Most recently, they completed ‘Saves for SMS’.
“They had a garage sale and lemonade stand a couple years ago and it made $400 or $500,” said Jason. “With Saves for SMS, they were hoping to make $1,000. It was a modest goal.”
Saves for SMS was the brainchild of Ryan and Nikolas. Nikolas, a goaltender for the Tier 4 Strathcona Warriors ST505, wanted to use his goalie skills to raise awareness for SMS. In February, Ryan tallied each save that Nikolas made. Together, they collected pledges, sent weekly emails with statistics and posted videos to social media. After 83 saves, they raised over $25,000.
The money was donated to PRISMS (Parents and Researchers Interested in Smith-Magenis Syndrome), an organization that has helped the Michaud family with Jillian. Their hope is all the money goes to SMS research to improve the life of Jillian and children living with SMS.
“Our boys are blessed. They live with this so they are naturally innate with empathy, but to see it come out in the other boys … if you watch my daughter, there are other kids watching her, other boys in the association. This community is awesome. Strathcona Minor Hockey has embraced our family, has embraced this crazy life with our daughter,” said Jason.
To wrap up the month-long initiative, the Strathcona Warriors ST505 played the “Saves for SMS Celebration Game” at Saikers Acres – a well-known local outdoor rink for hosting charity events. With over 100 people in attendance, the game celebrated Jillian, Saves for SMS and continued to raise awareness.
“It was a really good experience for the kids and the parents to be a part of that and a part of the community,” said Dawson. “The kids really got to know Jillian and to know that being different is good and to be comfortable with it.”
Often talking about his sister, Nikolas makes her a part of his everyday life. So much so, Jillian became part of the team, calling them “her boys”.
“It felt great to have the team’s support,” said Nikolas. “The team did good with Jillian. Jillian had lots of friends on the team, they would hang out with her and give her hugs.”
Having a sibling with Smith-Magenis Syndrome comes with many challenges, but Nikolas is her biggest supporter.
“He is a good example of showing and embracing people who are different and working your hardest against all odds,” said Dawson of Nikolas. “It was just a really good feel-good community feeling and it’s really special to see Jason and Nikolas be such a positive influence on the players and the community.”
As part of the Hockey Alberta Awards program, award recipients receive $1,000 for their association. The Michauds couldn’t be more appreciative of their association.
“I’m blessed to coach these awesome kids and he’s blessed to have lifelong friends here,” said Jason. “They say it takes a village and Strathcona County, this association, has been a huge village for our family and we’re just blessed to be a part of it.”
Do you know someone who impacts your association or the game of hockey like Jason and Nikolas? Nominate them for a 2023 Hockey Alberta Award presented by ATB.
Nominations are being accepted until February 8.