The BC Winter Games will be held in Vernon between Feb. 23-26 and will bring together some of the most talented young developing athletes from every region of the province.
John Gillen is the BC Hockey District Director for the East Kootenay and also a representative for the region for the upcoming Winter Games.
“Basically what the BC Winter Games did was to go to BC Hockey and designated the district director for us to be a contact for the games. My responsibility for the East Kootenay is that I am the contact for any issues or questions,” he said.
Gillen has been involved with minor hockey locally for many years.
“I have been with BC Hockey for years. it has only been four years in that actual position. Prior to that I was president of the East Kootenay Minor Hockey Association. Prior to that I was president of the Golden Minor Hockey Association. Basically since I have been in Golden which is 19 years I have been involved,” he said.
Originally Gillen became involved in minor hockey because it was a sport his sons were interested in playing.
“I have two sons. My oldest son (Ryan) went through the minor hockey program and then the Western Hockey League and is now playing for the University of Calgary Dinosaurs. He played minor hockey here and then played two years with the Golden Rockets,” he said. “I coached minor hockey as well. I have always been a hockey fanatic.”
While competition is the backbone of the Games, in the end the games are about spirit of competition, camaraderie and friendship, teamwork, and the setting of goals for individual and community excellence.
“In particular for the (female hockey) players this year, it could be their first exposure to the high performance program which means they are going to be going to the Winter Games and playing teams from other districts. Theoretically the best under 16 players in the province will be there,” he said.
Gillen also felt the games give players from smaller areas the chance to compete at the highest level in the province.
“It has always been a problem for players coming from the Kootenays, the North, Vancouver Island because you are in smaller associations where you just don’t have the competition levels that the teams from other larger centre have…It has always been a difficulty.”
Gillen explained that with the new high performance program players are mixed on teams which give everyone the chance to not only become better players on the ice but also to get to know players from all over the province.
“I know going back to when my son went to the winter games many years ago, he went as a hockey player but got billeted in with people and got to know people who were involved with other sports. I think for the most part the BC Winter Games is a competitive games but it is also a friendly games as well.