For the Love of Hockey

Comox Valley Glacier Kings hockey team scores big with the local community

“The entire Valley uses this forest as their playground, <a href=

erectile ” says Andrew Nicol, president of the CCFS, with Meaghan Cursons, the society’s community and outreach coordinator. “This forest doesn’t just belong to the residents of Cumberland—it’s here for everyone who calls this Valley their home.” Photo by Boomer Jerritt” src=”×401.jpg” width=”602″ height=”401″ /> “The entire Valley uses this forest as their playground,” says Andrew Nicol, president of the CCFS, with Meaghan Cursons, the society’s community and outreach coordinator. “This forest doesn’t just belong to the residents of Cumberland—it’s here for everyone who calls this Valley their home.” Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Though my favorite trail around Cumberland is officially named Space Nugget, I call it a little piece of heaven. Heavily wooded, the spongy and meandering trail is hugged on all sides by bright green ferns, moss covered trees, and mushroom studded hills. Quite simply, Space Nugget is a jewel in Cumberland’s cap.

Entering Space Nugget is like falling into the rabbit hole. Just a few steps from Cumberland’s quaint downtown core, once you’re in the dim, lush forest you’ll feel distanced from civilization. As you walk the trail you’ll hear the sound of your footfalls and the sound of your breathing. If you listen carefully, you may hear the sound of the forest as the wind whispers through and strokes the trees. It feels soothingly lonely. However, you’ll probably meet someone along the way, because Space Nugget, like the rest of Cumberland’s trails, is popular with walkers, runners and mountain bikers. But after a friendly smile and a wave it will just be you and the forest again.

But this lovely trail and the forests surrounding it may soon be nothing more than a clear cut.

Space Nugget is just a small parcel of second growth, closed canopy forest near Cumberland that is slated to be logged as early as 2015. Like nearly all of the land that surrounds the Village of Cumberland, this beautiful forest is privately owned by a US based logging company—part of a legacy of the E&N Land Transfer that took place in the late 1800s, when two million acres of land along the eastern side of Vancouver Island transferred into private hands in exchange for agreements to construct a railway that would stretch from Victoria to Courtenay.

But the news isn’t entirely bleak—there is hope for Cumberland’s forest. Thirteen years ago the situation was the same, as forest land adjacent to Cumberland was literally on the chopping block. When residents realized they may lose their forest forever they banded together, fundraised, organized, and eventually raised $1.2 million to purchase 71 hectares of land. Immediately, a land-use covenant was put on the lands to ensure that they remain parkland and the ownership was passed to the Village of Cumberland. The Cumberland Community Forest was created, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But history is about to repeat itself, as the Cumberland Community Forest Society is now gearing up for another big purchase to save more of Cumberland’s precious forest. “Our next purchase is critical to preserving key trails and protecting the southern view-scape of the Village,” says Andrew Nicol, president of the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS).

“We’re currently looking at three pieces of land that total over 50 hectares. The first piece contains some of the original mountain biking trails built in the area, including Black Hole and Space Nugget. The second part is behind the historic Chinatown site and it contains trails including Buggered Pig and Bronco’s Perseverance.

“The third piece is the beautiful forest just beyond the #1 Japanese townsite and includes the Perseverance Creek wetlands—a stunning natural area. We’re also exploring the possibility of a multi-use boardwalk as part of this project.  This could create accessibility for visitors of diverse ability while at the same time protecting a fragile natural area.”

In order to purchase the land and save the forest, CCFS needs to raise $1.2 million—and they need to be quick about it.  “It took us five years to raise the same amount last time,” says Nicol. “Now we only have two years.”

Still, Nicol is positive they can reach their goal—not only because they’ve done it before, but because they know that the community values the forest. “It really is amazing, people are coming out of the woodwork and stepping up to do anything they can to save the forest,” says Nicol.

For example, one man is offering his time doing odd jobs around town, and giving all the proceeds to the CCFS. Artists are donating their work to be auctioned off for the forest. And musicians are creating a CD that will be sold to raise funds.

“There is an incredible community behind this campaign,” says Meaghan Cursons, the community and outreach coordinator for CCFS.

To be successful, CCFS will need to garner contributions from individuals, partner organizations, private foundations and corporations. As well, CCFS will organize a variety of fundraising activities. “We’ve always had a measure of success with our fundraising events, but this year people are really stepping up and supporting us in amazing ways,” Nicol says. “There’s the Perseverance Trail Run, which raised $9,000 this year—twice what they raised last year. Our Fall Trivia Night sold out this year and raised $3,500.”

A huge part of their fundraising effort is gathering more monthly donors. Currently CCFS has 190 monthly donors, which brings in $5,600 each month. According to Nicol, these monthly donors have been pivotal for CCFS’s success.

“If it wasn’t for the monthly donors, we would not have been able to purchase what we did,” he says. “The monthly donations prove monthly income—that we can pay our bills. We can’t get traditional funding because our equity is a forest that will never be logged. However, we can get private loans from people who want to help. Our monthly income gives prospective donors the assurance that we’ll pay them back if they give us a loan. In essence, we are able to leverage the incredible generosity and commitment of our monthly donors into larger fund development.”

Since the monthly donor is so important to the goals of CCFS, they are putting a lot of attention into growing their pool of monthly donations. “Our goal is to get our monthly dollar amount up to $10,000 each month. Roughly speaking, we want to double our current donor amount—and we want to do that by next spring,” says Cursons.

CCFS hopes families and individuals will seriously consider becoming a monthly donor, and that current donors will consider raising the amount they donate each month. “Monthly donors are how we make these purchases possible and almost every day new donors are signing on to make sure we save these forests in time,” she adds.

Much of the forested land near Cumberland is a closed canopy forest, a dense growth of trees in which the top branches and leaves form a ceiling, or canopy, where light can barely penetrate to reach the forest floor. The limited sunlight reduces the amount of vegetation growing under and between the mature trees, leaving the ground mostly free of brush. As a result, the forest floors surrounding Cumberland are thick with not much more than green moss, ferns and salal. The occasional shaft of light penetrates the forest canopy, gloriously illuminating sections of green undergrowth. This type of forest also provides cool shade during the summer, and protection from the rain on a wet coastal day. Simply stated, the closed canopy forest is something special—something worth saving.

The forests surrounding Cumberland are extremely important to the animals and birds that call these forests home. These forests are part of a wildlife corridor that stretches from Comox Lake to the ocean. As a result, saving these forests is part of a larger scheme to save waterways and habitats used by wildlife to forage for food, move about, and breed. Essentially, it fits into a broader conservation strategy for the entire Valley.

Many at risk species of flora and fauna live in the forests near Cumberland, such as the red legged frog, the small eared bat, and the barred owl. Logging this area will essentially wipe out their habitat. As well, there are mushroom varieties here that only grow in dense, dark, forested areas. Currently, scientists are discovering that many types of mushrooms have immune boosting and bacteria fighting capabilities, so it’s important that we work to save the forests where these mushrooms are found. For example, there are many varieties of mushrooms now extinct in Europe due to the deforestation that occurred there decades ago. Some varieties of mushrooms now only exist here in the forests of the Pacific West Coast.

Perseverance Creek, deemed a sensitive habitat, is a major salmon bearing stream, home to Coho salmon, Cut-throat trout, and Dolly Varden. According to the Perseverance Creek Streamkeepers Society, the creek has already been negatively affected by logging that took place farther up the hills. When a forest is undisturbed, the forest floor acts like a sponge, holding water and slowly releasing it. When a forest is logged, the water just runs over the surface and down the slopes. Downstream, the creeks and rivers flood in the winter and experience drought conditions in the summer. These conditions make proper salmon spawning nearly impossible. Perseverance Creek is already struggling, and logging the forest that surrounds the lower reaches of the creek is sure to cause more serious problems to the existing salmon habitat.

Perseverance Creek is a large part of the main water supply for both Cumberland and Royston. In addition, Comox Lake, into which the creek drains, is the main reservoir for the rest of the Comox Valley’s water supply. Clearly, it’s important to protect the health of Perseverance Creek—to protect our watershed, and to protect an important salmon habitat.

Community members took part in an Indiegogo video shoot in November as part of the ongoing campaign to save the Cumberland Community Forest.  Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Community members took part in an Indiegogo video shoot in November as part of the ongoing campaign to save the Cumberland Community Forest. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

To Cursons and Nicol, the importance of the forest adjacent to Cumberland cannot be understated, as they both believe that the efforts of CCFS are globally significant. “Forests are critical to global well being and every effort to protect forest lands benefits the planet as a whole,” says Nicol.

Cursons agrees: “We’re not just doing this for our own backyard,” she says. “We’re doing this for global reasons.”

Cursons believes the forest surrounding Cumberland is pivotal to Cumberland as a whole. “Cumberland is a community that defines itself by its proximity to the woods,” she adds. “It’s a village in the forest.”

More and more, young families are choosing to call Cumberland their home, and the closeness of the forest to the community is one reason they are settling in Cumberland. “I’m passionate about Cumberland and about this forest,” Cursons says. “Like so many other people that live here, I walk or hike these forest trails almost every day.”

Nicol agrees that the forest is extremely important to what makes Cumberland special. “Access to the natural environment is essential to our physical, mental, and spiritual health,” he says. “To me, the value of having a great outdoor area within walking distance to the village is immeasurable.”

Aside from the environmental and recreational benefits of the forest, both Nicol and Cursons believe the future of the forest and the future of Cumberland’s economy are directly linked.
“We believe that economic development and environmental sustainability can be complementary,” says Cursons. “There are economic reasons to save these forests because these trails have an economic consequence to Cumberland and the entire Comox Valley. Long term, these forests are worth more to us while they’re standing.”

To Nicol, the forest is what makes Cumberland stand out and what makes its economic future so bright. “Cumberland is such a unique town. It doesn’t look like anywhere else in BC. There’s a unique feel. This has a huge economic value.”

Though the trails surround Cumberland, saving these forest lands is relevant to everyone in the Comox Valley. “The entire Valley uses this forest as their playground,” Nicol says. “This forest doesn’t just belong to the residents of Cumberland—it’s here for everyone who calls this Valley their home.”

The Cumberland Community Forest Society realizes that to reach its goal, it needs assistance from the larger community that makes up the entire Comox Valley. “Thirteen years ago, the forest was saved because the community banded together,” notes Cursons. “If the people of the Comox Valley get behind this campaign, I believe we can do it again.”

For more information on the forest and to help with the campaign visit

Helping hands:  Members of the local convoy before they headed out to help with the Mexican Schools Project.  From left (standing): Chip Ross, <a href=

order Bob Johnson, recipe Charlie Sallis, approved
Alan deJersey and Bayne Mann. Seated (from left): Deb Nolan, Karen Ross, Penny Vroom, Paul Vroom and Robin Harrison. Photo by Boomer Jerritt ” src=”×424.jpg” width=”602″ height=”424″ /> Helping hands: Members of the local convoy before they headed out to help with the Mexican Schools Project. From left (standing): Chip Ross, Bob Johnson, Charlie Sallis, Alan deJersey and Bayne Mann. Seated (from left): Deb Nolan, Karen Ross, Penny Vroom, Paul Vroom and Robin Harrison. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Line up an ambulance, a Handi-dart bus, a 72-passenger school bus and a Chevy Tahoe SUV. Fill each of these donated vehicles with school and craft supplies, sewing machines, wheelchairs and sports equipment. Then, add 10 eager volunteers from three different Comox Valley Rotary clubs… and you’ve got yourself a convoy!

This convoy of compassion left the Comox Valley on October 28 to deliver these vehicles and items to the small and impoverished community of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico. The humanitarian effort is part of a charitable initiative called the Mexican Schools Project (MSP), which was co-founded by Comox Valley resident Bob Johnson.

Johnson is a humble and easy-going man who describes himself as “a house painter and outdoor education enthusiast… originally from Winnipeg… now based in the Comox Valley, but prone to going away for extended periods of travel and humanitarian work.”

It was on one of these trips, more than 10 years ago, that his compassionate heart would lead him to spearhead an initiative that would not only change the lives of many people in poor villages in Mexico, but also inspire members of several Rotary Clubs and thousands of Canadians to help.

“I travelled to Mexico in 2002 with my friend Selena Goldberg and we had brought about 175 pounds of donated school supplies with us from Canada,” explains Johnson. “When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta we volunteered at a community bazaar organized by local restaurant owners Margarito Larios and Eva Sanchez.  The event was to raise money for Family Services Mexico (DIF).  Afterwards, the four of us met to discuss where we could donate the school supplies. Margarito and Eva connected us to DIF, and this linked us to many special needs centres in the Puerto Vallarta area in which we still work.

“When we asked Margarito what we should do with the school supplies, he answered, ‘Forget Puerto Vallarta! I will take you where they are really needed!’ Hence, our introduction to Cabo Corrientes, Mexico,” adds Johnson. “This poor-aid area is just south of Puerto Vallarta and consists of approximately 40 small fishing and farming villages.”

Johnson soon discovered that the children of this area needed much more than pencils and crayons. They needed classrooms, bathrooms and proper housing for their teachers. The region, Johnson recalls, was as if it was in a time warp from 50 years ago. Very few people had electricity or running water. School toilet areas consisted of open pits screened off with plastic. Classrooms were beyond deplorable, with dirt floors and thatched roofs that leaked so badly that they had to close during the rainy season… never mind the scorpions and snakes that took up shelter there. Together, Margarito and Johnson decided they wanted to do something about the situation.

“From this experience, the idea for the Mexican Schools Project was conceived,” Johnson says. “With the help of Magarito and Eva back in Mexico, and working with my family and friends here in Canada, I began to raise money to purchase materials to build school facilities and buy much-needed school supplies.

“Every year since then, I have traveled to these rural communities. I work with the local municipios in Mexico to assess needs, and then buy the materials locally. People of all ages from these small communities, along with Canadian volunteers like myself, work together to remodel existing schoolhouses, build sanitary latrines with flushing toilets and sinks with clean water for hand washing, as well as construct housing for teachers. We also provide basic academic supplies and sports equipment. The people in these small communities are so very, very grateful to have these buildings and the supporting resources.

“While not a registered non-profit society, the Mexican Schools Project is about as ‘grass roots’ as you can get,” says Johnson. “Fully 100 per cent of everything donated to the program goes to assist rural Mexican communities in addressing their educational priorities.”

In August 2004, Johnson’s program and his Herculean efforts to help the Mexican people went national when Readers’ Digest Magazine featured a story on MPS in their ‘Everyday Heroes’ section. That helped him make his first connection to a Canadian Rotary Club.

The Medicine Hat (Alberta) Sunrise Rotary Club was the first to step forward with financial assistance. Over the years, they have donated thousands of dollars. A Mexican Fiesta Fundraiser there last July netted $10,000 for MSP. This money has been dedicated toward building a school in Rastrojos where the students are currently using an old woodworking shop with a very leaky roof.

Deb Nolan with a friend in Mexico.  Photo courtesy Mexican Schools Project

Deb Nolan with a friend in Mexico. Photo courtesy Mexican Schools Project

The Mexican Schools Project was brought to the attention of Vancouver Island Rotary Clubs when Johnson joined Strathcona Sunrise Rotary last year. Word of his efforts quickly spread amongst this tight-knit network of community do-gooders.

The convoy of vehicles and supplies that were delivered to Mexico in early November was a collective effort of the Strathcona Sunrise, Cumberland Centennial, Qualicum Beach Sunrise, Port Hardy, Lantzville and Nanaimo North Rotary Clubs. This mid-Island group of Rotary Clubs raised money for construction projects, secured donations of vehicles, paid for reconditioning and maintenance on the vehicles and for the gas to get them to Mexico, as well as filling them with much-needed supplies.

“But this project isn’t just about the generosity of Rotarians!” clarifies Strathcona Sunrise Rotary member Chip Ross. “As with all Rotary projects, we depend on community support. For example, the Snow to Surf event organizers, various sports teams and countless individuals from across the North Island all made valuable contributions.”

The 2013 Mexican School Project convoy team from the Comox Valley consisted of Bob Johnson, along with other Strathcona Sunrise Rotary Club members Chip and Karen Ross, Bayne Mann and Robin Harrison. Alan deJersey, Charlie Sallis, Deb Nolan and Paul and Penny Vroom from Cumberland Centennial Rotary joined them for the journey. They later flew home from Mexico at their own expense.

During the lengthy road trip they were fed and billeted at fellow Rotarians’ homes in BC, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and in Mexico. A highlight of the entire trip was the celebration of the official ‘charter’ of a brand new Rotary Club based in El Tuito, Mexico. This Rotary Club exists directly as a result of Johnson’s efforts in building awareness of the Mexican Schools Project.

“The trip down was great and we were well received by the various Rotary clubs along the way,” says Ross, who has been a Rotarian since 1984. “Some of the clubs contributed financially to the project as well as hosting our delegation by providing food and lodging.

“It was not, however, without its challenges,” he adds. “The planned nine-day road trip turned into 12 days. Our schedule was off because of mechanical problems with one of the vehicles and we had a few other unforeseen delays—like a two day wait at the Mexican border—but it was still a great experience.”

On November 8, at the end of a long, long day, the convoy of compassion travelled the last—and by far the most challenging—50 kilometres of its journey. They motored along twisting and steep roads in the dark before entering the cobblestone streets of the small town of Cabo Corrientes.

“We were certainly happy to finally arrive at our destination and we were greeted with big smiles and a traditional Mexican feast,” recalls Ross. “It was great fun as some of the Rotarians practiced their Spanish and the Mexicans practiced their English… and we all had fun together sharing the universal language of laughter.”

The next day, the vehicles and supplies were officially delivered to a very appreciative community. The two buses will be used in the local schools and community health workers will use the SUV. The ambulance, of course, will be used for medical emergencies and patient transport. The presentation to hand over the keys and the paperwork was followed by a special community fiesta in the Zocalo (town square) that featured dancers, lively music, an abundance of Mexican food and, of course, more laughter.

“In the following days, our entourage had the opportunity to visit about a dozen schools in remote villages to deliver school and sports supplies and interact with teachers and students,” says Ross.

“Some of the members did crafts with the children, others joined in games of baseball and soccer… can you just picture a bunch of Rotarians running around a soccer field with the Mexican kids? One of the schools provided us lunch and the children performed traditional folk dances for us. It was so much fun.”

While some people might question why local Rotarians would invest so much time and effort in a humanitarian aid project so far from home, Ross is quick to point out that Rotary is a global organization believing that compassion should not have geographical boundaries. Rotary International’s motto is ‘Service above self’ and their website states: “We are 1.2 million neighbors, friends and community leaders, who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world.”

“The basic premise of Rotary is to promote international peace, goodwill and understanding,” says Ross with heart-felt conviction. “When Rotarians see a need, they want to help. There are four Rotary clubs in the Comox Valley and together we do a great deal for this community. But the need in Mexico is greater than anyone here can ever imagine.”

This delegation to Mexico was Chip and Karen Ross’ third international mission and they both agree that words cannot describe the satisfaction one gets from giving selflessly in a truly impoverished country. When asked to recount one of their most gratifying moments in their humanitarian efforts, the Ross’ have a difficult time indentifying just one.

“The time we delivered 55 hand-powered wheelchairs to amputees in India really stands out for me,” says Karen Ross with a wave of heart-felt nostalgia evident in her eyes. “I will never forget the looks on the peoples’ faces as they were lifted into their new wheelchairs for the very first time, giving them the gift of mobility and some dignity.”

“This year’s trip was different than our previous two trips to India,” adds Chip Ross. “With those trips we knew—because of the distance—that we could not go back. With the Mexican Schools Project, however, Karen and I as individuals, and the various Rotary Clubs as organizations, recognize that there is an opportunity to build lasting relationships with the people in these villages in Mexico. We see this as something we can be involved with for many years to come. While it took some time to get over the physical exhaustion of this road trip, it was well worth it. We came home with plenty of ideas on how we can continue to provide aid to this region in Mexico and we will be sharing them with other Island Rotary Clubs in the coming months.”

To learn more visit or find them on Facebook at To watch a video about the project and to make a donation go to

Glacier Kings co-owners Marsha Webb and Iris Churchill have seen no less than 600 boys play for the Glacier Kings in the past 21 years, <a href=

as well as another 200 affiliate players from the lower divisions. They estimate approximately 630 home games and roughly the same number of road games have been played since they founded the team. Also in that time they have washed approximately 30,000 team jerseys. Photo by Boomer Jerritt” src=”×401.jpg” width=”602″ height=”401″ /> Glacier Kings co-owners Marsha Webb and Iris Churchill have seen no less than 600 boys play for the Glacier Kings in the past 21 years, as well as another 200 affiliate players from the lower divisions. They estimate approximately 630 home games and roughly the same number of road games have been played since they founded the team. Also in that time they have washed approximately 30,000 team jerseys. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

It’s early evening at ice rink number one in the Comox Valley Sports Centre, and the lobby is being steadily transformed. Foldable tables mark a route to the rink doors. To the left, Rubbermaid totes and their contents of T-shirts, hoodies, and caps are being emptied onto the table surfaces. To the right, cash boxes, game tickets, and souvenir programs seem to appear out of nowhere.

A few people trickle in from the parking lot, greeting each other and the volunteers patiently waiting behind the tables. Before long, the volume in the lobby rises to a din and there is a line-up of people that threatens to spill out the front door. The volunteers are collecting tickets and handing back the stubs as fast as they can. Young and old, men and women, families and couples and friends are all here, and they’re here for one reason—to watch the Comox Valley Glacier Kings continue their 10 game winning streak.

It’s a sight that brings a smile to the faces of Marsha Webb and Iris Churchill. This is a show of support for years of dedication to building a program that will remain for many years to come—a hockey program that has become a community tradition.

Webb and her sister Churchill, along with Webb’s husband Dave, founded the Comox Valley Glacier Kings 21 years ago with the goal of creating more hockey opportunities for young men on northern Vancouver Island.

“We make good men better,” says Webb. “We give young people something to commit to. I really do believe if you were to wipe out every hockey program across Canada it would have a huge negative impact.”

In 1993, the existing Juvenile Rep program for players 18 to 20 years of age wasn’t working in the Comox Valley. The nearest available competitors were in Vancouver, and the group of players simply couldn’t balance travel for games with school and jobs. Like a lot of young men, they had no money and no time. But, they still wanted to play.
The Webbs and Churchill were offered the opportunity to join the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The VIJHL was—and still is—a Junior B league with the mission of giving players aged 16 to 20 years the opportunity to compete, grow, and develop in the sport of hockey.

The chance to play a highly competitive and highly entertaining brand of junior hockey wasn’t something Webb and her co-founders could pass up, even if it came with a warning.

“We were a combined team then and all of those kids came out of midget hockey in Campbell River, Powell River, and the Comox Valley,” says Webb, of the team’s first season. “We were told we would struggle in the league. Well, we won everything.”

The Glacier Kings were the 1993/1994 VIJHL league season champions, and in 1994/1995 won the VIJHL playoffs and went on to compete for the provincial crown known as Cyclone Taylor Cup.

It was an auspicious start, and in 2009/2010, the Glacier Kings were the VIJHL north division playoffs champion again. Today, that history attracts players from around BC, Canada and the United States and has cemented the Glacier King’s reputation as an effective development team for junior hockey players. It’s certainly what attracted this year’s team captain Nick Tupper and fellow players Michael Hails and Carson George.

“I was in a Junior A situation that didn’t work out,” explains Tupper. “I knew the coach and really wanted the opportunity to be part of a winning team.”

Adds Hails: “We want to play hockey, and we want to win,” he says. “We have the opportunity to do that here and bring something home for the fans.”

Members of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings get ready to hit the ice gor a recent home game.  Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Members of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings get ready to hit the ice gor a recent home game. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Coach Joey Ewing certainly thinks this year’s squad has the ability to go all the way to the VIJHL provincial crown, and that some of his players could go on to Junior A hockey or, with a lot of hard work, the Western Hockey League (WHL).The Glacier Kings have sent players to both leagues. The current squad is made up of 21 players, including six from the Comox Valley, two from Calgary, and one from Minnesota.

“I have high expectations,” says Ewing. “This is rare group of boys. They all get along, and I’m unhappy I can’t play all of my players more often. I will be very disappointed if we don’t win the provincial championship.”

However, even Webb knows that it is a select group of players that make it to Junior A and the WHL, and even fewer to the National Hockey League (NHL). Instead, the team works hard to create multiple opportunities for their players on and off the ice.

“We’ve been very successful the last several years creating opportunities for the boys at Selkirk College and Grant MacEwan University and getting them four more years of eligibility,” says Webb. “The players also earn a college or university education that can set them up for career success, whether that’s in hockey or another more mundane professional field. A few of our past players have not only played Junior A and played in the WHL”

Another option for players whose competitive playing days are coming to an end is officiating.

“We can’t play without the officials,” says Webb. “We must have a crew of one referee and two linesmen for every game. Just like our hockey program, we develop our officials to go to the next level. We are always recruiting.”

Officiating is also decent supplement to a young person’s income, with linesmen receiving approximately $45 per game and referees $75, plus mileage for travel. Webb is quick to point out that NHL referee Trent Knorr from Powell River started in minor hockey, and just begun what is likely to be a successful career officiating the highest levels of hockey.

The part of the team Webb is most proud of though is the players’ involvement in the community. Webb herself has made volunteerism a cornerstone of her life, and it’s a philosophy she works hard to pass onto to each of the players that join the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.

The team currently volunteers with the Courtenay LINC Youth Centre playing floor hockey with at risk-youth, and are active partners in the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s anti-tobacco campaign for elementary school students. The players go into the classroom and demonstrate the effects of smoking with props, and finish their presentation with games of floor hockey.

“The kids are so excited playing with you, and so happy to get hats and T-shirts. They take shots at your knees, and laugh about it,” says team member Carson George. “It makes you realize you can make a difference.”

“I grew up with two parents who were very supportive and I’ve had all of these opportunities to play hockey,” adds his teammate Michael Hails. “Learning just what some of these kids go through, sleeping on couches and not really having a home, really opens your eyes. It makes you want to be a role model and give back to the community. We’ve been so lucky.”

Adds team captain Nick Tupper: “We were at a Christmas dinner, and I overheard Marsha speaking with one of the counselors at the LINC saying that it was one kid’s first Christmas dinner. That hit hard. You want to make a difference.”

And that’s what Webb and the team co-owners want to hear.

“This team is so important. When we started, my son wasn’t ready to leave hockey but he was scared to join the men’s league,” says Webb. “The only choice back then was the beer leagues, and he wasn’t ready for that. There are so many other negative things our players could be out doing and we give them something positive to focus on.”

That positive focus extends to non-playing members of the community as well. Officiating is possible for anyone who can skate and has a passion for learning the rules of hockey. Likewise, the Glacier Kings give community youth the chance announce their games, and have created opportunities for careers in broadcasting.

“We’ve helped launch the broadcasting careers of four young men. They’ve gone onto study broadcasting at college,” says Webb.

Another big part of the Glacier Kings team is the volunteers, especially the billet families. Billet families are community members that house out-of-town players, creating a home-like environment and stability for the boys while they train. It’s a huge responsibility, and often involves becoming a surrogate parent.

John Santos is one such billet, and he receives phones calls and letters from teachers (at the request of the players parents), and lays down the rules that all teenagers need.
“I tell the boys, I don’t care if coach says you can be out all night. When I say you have to be home at midnight, you’re home at midnight,” says Santos. “It’s a big job, and you have to do it because you love it. I love it.”

“John is cool,” says Tupper. “He travels with us so we’ll always have someone in the stands to cheer for us.”

Webb and the players are deeply appreciative. Without volunteers, the Glacier Kings would have a much harder time doing what they do. For them, every home game is a chance to play hard and say thanks for the time, energy, and support the players receive from volunteers and the community.

“When the community asks why should we come to a Glacier King’s game, I want to say come out and support your community team and the effort of these young people who have community pride,” says Webb. “We are just one option on a long list of options here.”

For more information and a schedule of upcoming Glacier Kings games visit: