Indigenous NHL alumni hit the ice in Yukon to inspire local youth

Eight former NHL players are touring Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Teslin, Watson Lake and Whitehorse. They're teaching hockey skills and giving advice to local youth.

8 former NHL players visiting Yukon to inspire youth to make positive choices in life

Reggie Leach is part of a group of Indigenous NHL alumni players touring Yukon communities and working with youth. (George Maratos/CBC)

It has been a busy week for NHL Indigenous legend Reggie Leach, who is touring Yukon communities.

For a second year in a row, he has brought several former NHL players — including Jason Simon, John Chabot and Laurie Boshman — to visit youth across the territory and Canada, .

"When you have a dream go after it, don't be sitting back, and you know you got to work hard at everything you do," says Leach, the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup winner and now motivational speaker.

CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston says it's good to see Indigenous NHL hockey players giving back to the community. (George Maratos CBC)

"There are eight guys on the tour and everybody has a different story on how they accomplished where they got."

This week, the former NHL players visited Teslin, Watson Lake, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Whitehorse. The five-day 2018 NHL Indigenous Alumni Tour is being sponsored by the Council of Yukon First Nations, as well as First Nations and community partners.

If it affects one child or one kid on this whole tour ... it has paid itself off.- Grand Chief Peter Johnston

Leach says it's a good feeling coming back to all the communities to talk to kids about life choices, such as drugs and alcohol.

He also wants to show Indigenous youth that they can get out of their communities and accomplish their dreams.

Leach grew up in Riverton, Man., and was raised by his grandparents. He started to play hockey when he was 10, and by 16 was playing junior hockey for Flin Flon.

He was also a winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given annually to the most valuable player in the NHL during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Young hockey players at the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse are learning hockey and life skills from NHL alumni. (George Maratos/CBC)

"I am a big believer that everything comes from the heart. If you do things from the heart and you speak from the heart, a lot of the things will happen," says Leach.

He says he also reminds adults in the communities that they are role models for youth.

"Whatever you do, the kids are going to follow."

Leach says it is important for youth to get an education so they can come back and help their community.

The Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston says it is good to see Indigenous NHL hockey players contributing back to the community.

"If it affects one child or one kid on this whole tour in the next four or five days, it has paid itself off, as far as I am concerned," said Johnston.

He says it is not about First Nations, it is about the community, bringing people together celebrating their success.

"When you can see a Stanley Cup ring from 1989, it is pretty impressive, let alone players who have played with Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky."


Mike Rudyk

Reporter, CBC Yukon

Mike Rudyk has worked for CBC Yukon since 1999, as a reporter and videographer. He lives in Whitehorse.

With files from George Maratos, Sandi Coleman