PEI

NHL greats inspire Lennox Island youth

Some Indigenous NHL greats visited P.E.I.'s largest reserve at Lennox Island Monday to play pick-up hockey with dozens of young people and deliver some inspiration.

'They need something different than instead of all the negative stuff'

Bryan Trottier (left) and Reggie Leach sign autographs for youth on Lennox Island. (CBC)

Some Indigenous NHL greats visited P.E.I.'s largest reserve at Lennox Island Monday to play pick-up hockey with dozens of young people and deliver some inspiration. 

Canadian NHL legends Reggie Leach and Bryan Trottier were brought to P.E.I. by a partnership of Indigenous groups along with the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside. 

'Little boost'

"All the kids today they need a little, they need a little boost. They need something different than instead of all the negative stuff," said Leach, who won the Stanley Cup with the Philadelphia Flyers back in 1975. 

It's an opportunity to influence in a positive way the next generation of student athletes, make 'em feel like they've got a dream, hope, opportunity.— Bryan Trottier, NHL legend

Now Leach, originally from Manitoba, is a motivational speaker and regularly talks to groups about his success in hockey and his struggles with alcohol addiction. Leach has been to about 250 First Nations communities.

"It doesn't matter what community you come from or where you come from, a rich family or poor family," said Leach, who grew up poor. "You still have to work hard to be successful."

NHL legend Reggie Leach wants to give Indigenous youth 'a little boost.' (CBC)

It was the first visit to Lennox Island for Bryan Trottier, who played 18 NHL seasons and won six Stanley Cups, who said it's important to him to get outside big cities like Edmonton and Toronto to talk to young people.

"We think it's an opportunity to influence in a positive way the next generation of student athletes, make 'em feel like they've got a dream, hope, opportunity out there," said Trottier. 

"It was really exciting and I just always wanted to play with, like, NHL players and I guess I got to," said 12-year-old Madison Annand with a big smile. 

"It was was pretty fun. It's pretty cool that we get to see some NHL players," added Dylan Sapier. 

'Pretty cool'

The event was a huge success, organizers said. 

"I think it resonated with a lot of people," said Jamie Thomas, the culture and tourism coordinator on Lennox Island. "That positive messaging is really important." 

NHL great Reggie Leach, in the orange shirt, proves he still has the moves, in a game of ball hockey with kids on Lennox Island Monday. (CBC)

"Coming from First Nations people who are superstars, I think that was really important. They talked a lot about respect and they talked about our culture." 

Although many of the youth didn't recognize the men's names right away, they were star-struck by the fact they were hockey Hall-of-Famers, and enthralled as the players recalled their glory days on the ice. 

Thomas believes the visit will generate pride. "They can tell people, 'I played hockey with an NHL superstar!'" she said. 

"It was pretty cool because that's my first time playing with NHL players," said 10-year-old Kavon Bernard. 

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan

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