'It's cold but it's fun': New Canadians get skating lessons from Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey
'Welcome to Winnipeg' program gives newcomers a chance to try out winter sports
Dozens of newcomers of all ages braved the cold on Saturday to get a skating lesson from someone who knows his way around a rink — Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey.
Morrissey laced up his skates, along with the new Canadians, at Camp Manitou in Headingley, just past Winnipeg's perimeter, as part of the True North Youth Foundation's "Welcome to Winnipeg" program.
The program, now in its third year, gives people who are new to Canada a chance to experience winter sports, often for the first time, at Camp Manitou's outdoor ice rink.
That included Adhel Kuac, 12, who grew up in Egypt, and said she didn't mind Saturday's cold — with temperatures hovering around –20, and the wind chill making it feel even colder — too much.
"Egypt is really hot. You don't feel the cold, and in Canada, [there are] things you never knew and saw before," she said.
"You get to try different things."
"It's cold but it's fun," said Salma Arounia, 10, who moved to Winnipeg from Venezuela a year ago.
Saturday wasn't her first time skating, but she said she was learning a lot more.
"You get to learn new tricks and you also get to exercise. It's fun," she said.
But for many others, Saturday was the first time out on an ice rink.
Albertine Malonda, 11, and her 13-year-old brother Timothy said it was their first time putting on skates.
"I really don't know if I like it. I'm always falling down!" said Timothy with a laugh.
Morrissey says the event isn't just about learning new skills, but also about making connections.
"It's a fun day. You get to meet some really cool people and welcome them to Canada," said the Jets defenceman, who was participating in the program for the second time.
"Obviously an outdoor rink in –20 is a pretty good welcome to Winnipeg," he said, adding that he himself learned to skate on an outdoor rink — but it had been a while since he last skated outdoors in such cold weather.
Morrissey, who grew up in Calgary, said hockey helped him form many friendships, and added he hopes it can do the same for the kids he skated with Saturday.
"It would be really cool to see maybe one of these kids go onto play in the NHL one day, but I think just the fact that they get to be involved in sports in a team atmosphere is a great thing."
Some 40 families who have been in Canada less than a year took part in Saturday's event, with the help of Immigrant Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).
The True North Youth Foundation says 240 new Canadians will have a chance to try out a variety of winter sports as part of the program over the next several weeks.
Most of the families participating are from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
"Some of them are trying skates for the first time," said Rick Bochinski, the director of Camp Manitou.
"So for me, who has been skating since I was three or four years old, it's super exciting seeing some adults pushing the red chairs and trying skating for the first time."
Bochinski said all the participants will also get a ticket to an upcoming Winnipeg Jets game for the full hockey experience.