Local kids cheered through a West Coast Express experience on Friday as former Vancouver Canucks centreman Brendan Morrison welcomed them to a ball hockey game at Wickaninninsh Community School.
“Tofino kids are super passionate. They get after it in there and every time I play ball hockey with them I’m always walking out of here with a sweat on, so it’s a lot of fun,” Morrison told the Westerly News before heading into the event.
“Me coming out here and playing ball hockey with these kids actually takes me back to when I was a kid,” he said adding he began chasing his dream of being an NHL star as a kid playing ball hockey in Pitt Meadows. “I would spend all my extra time out in the cul-de-sac shooting tennis balls, trying to convince other kids on the street to go in net for me so I could work on my skills. So, this really takes me back to those times…To get these kids out and put a smile on their face is a lot of fun.”
He added that he is passionate about getting youth active and engaged in sports.
“Sports teach you a lot of things about life,” he said. “Whether you’re playing a team sport or an individual sport there’s a lot of life lessons that you learn as far as commitment and dedication and hard work and being a good teammate. All those things are life skills that will help you as you get older.”
The annual ball hockey game serves as the kick-off for Morrison’s three-day Tofino Saltwater Classic fishing tournament, which is making its 10th annual showing this weekend and has raised over $500,000 for local community initiatives since its inception.
One of the Classic’s beneficiaries is the Wickaninnish Community School’s lunch and snack programs.
“The Saltwater Classic has invested a lot in our lunch program and our snack program since its inception and to be honest we couldn’t feed the kids the way we do without that support,” said the school’s principal Drew Ryan.
“Monday to Friday our kids are eating healthy foods, nutritious foods which directly connects to their abilities to self regulate, to learn and it creates a real community and home-sense. These are our kids. not only because they come everyday to learn and to have fun, but there our kids because they’re part of our community and we’re just so grateful that Brendan and his family and everybody that helps out with Saltwater Classic are also a part of our family. We really appreciate that and respect that a lot.”
Morrison began the Saltwater Classic as a way to both promote the tremendous fishing experiences that can be had on the West Coast and to fill the coffers of local initiatives in the community he fell in love with as a kid.
“I’ve been coming to Tofino with my family since I was actually in my mom’s stomach,” he said. “I’ve got pictures of my parents hiking here with my mom being pregnant…We had a lot of family vacations here and I just fell in love with Tofino at a young age.”
Morrison and his family purchased property in Tofino about 13 years ago.
“This is our happy place,” he said. “This is the place that we come to connect with the locals, connect with nature and it’s just a tremendous, tremendous, town.”