CORNER BROOK Growing up in England, hockey was never Andy Haddon’s cup of tea.
That all changed when the native of Norwich found himself living in Edmonton, Alta. while his wife, Hadija Drummond, was working on her masters. This period of time happened to coincide with the 2002 Winter Olympics where Team Canada avenged their disappointing showing in 1998 with a gold-medal victory over the United States.
“I went out to a bar and it was me and a whole bunch of Canadians cheering on Team Canada in the gold-medal game,” Haddon said of his introduction to the sport. “That’s pretty much when I decided to start skating.”
The couple eventually moved to Japan and had planned to stay there for another few years, but a job opportunity arose at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland for Hadija, which led them to Corner Brook about a year ago. Neither Haddon or his wife, who hails from Saskatchewan, had any previous connection to the province.
“It’s exactly halfway between my hometown and her hometown,” Haddon said. “So it worked out quite nicely.”
Once back on Canadian soil, Haddon, whose days are occupied with being a part-time student and a stay-at-home dad to his kids Daniel and Charlie, began to feel the itch to start skating again, so he got involved with weekly pick-up games organized by Grenfell.
“I wanted to get out and meet people and do something,” said the 39-year-old. “I was home with the kids all day and it was almost getting a bit oppressive being at home all the time. I like sports and wanted to get out and play a sport.”
Through the Grenfell games, he was invited to play recreational hockey on weeknights with a larger group, one which included Gerry Lahey.
It was Lahey’s idea to organize a local hockey camp for adults, his own inexperience in the sport and a post on Facebook from a friend out west who attended a similar camp serving as inspiration.
“I said, ‘God, it’d be great if there was something for adult players over here,’” Lahey said.
He originally thought of asking hockey camp gurus Juan Strickland or Rob French to run the on-ice sessions, but wasn’t confident he’d have the interest or numbers to make it worth their while. Former senior hockey player Cyril Walsh is an acquaintance of Lahey’s and occasionally Lahey would drop a hint or two Walsh’s way or initiate a conversation asking how Walsh would run the camp if he was doing it.
The strategy worked
“I started fishing a little bit,” Lahey admitted. “A couple of things (Walsh) said I kind of used as my template and now he is running it for us.”
If Lahey’s name is ringing a bell, by the way, he is the son and namesake of 1960s provincial senior hockey star and Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Famer Gerry Lahey.
Despite his late father’s prowess with the puck, the younger Lahey, 40, had only laced his skates recently.
“Dad’s in the Hall of Fame and I only learned how to skate last year,” he said. “He put me in hockey when I was five, but I wasn’t interested and he didn’t push me.”
Wednesday night marked the first of four planned sessions for the adult hockey camp. People can register for individual sessions or attend all of them. They are open to any adult, regardless of previous hockey experience or lack thereof.
“We’ve got people that can barely stand up and people that are fairly decent skaters,” Lahey said.
“Some people have been playing for about seven years, people who just taught themselves to skate and play by going out to recreational skates, so they’re hoping to get some tips and run through some drills.
“Cyril is going to assess how everything goes (regarding individual skill level) and work from there,” he added.
Haddon is a bona fide beginner who admits there are a few facets of his game that could do with some improvement. When he heard about the camp from Lahey, he signed up immediately.
“Skating for sure, probably stickhandling ... pretty much everything, actually,” he said of which particular skills need work.
“You can play twice a week, but you’re only going to get any better with a bit of coaching, otherwise you’ve got nothing to practice.”
He claims he’s officially been bitten by the hockey bug, but concedes he’s still somewhat in the dark about the professional game on television.
“I know, of course, names like Wayne Gretzky,” he said. “But other than that, I don’t really know anybody.”
Not even the highest-scoring United Kingdom-born NHLer in history?
“I have absolutely no idea,” said a stumped Haddon.
The answer, for those keeping score, is Stockport-native Steve Thomas, who amassed 933 points in 1,235 games with Toronto, Chicago, Long Island, New Jersey, Anaheim and Detroit.
“I have been to Stockport once,” Haddon offered with a laugh. “I’m a terrible hockey fan, I’ve always been a terrible sports fan. I’d much rather play it than watch it.”
Like-minded individuals interested in attending any of the remaining three sessions, on Wednesday nights from 8:30-9:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena II, can contact Lahey at 639-4289.