Having displayed integrity, perseverance and the drive to #WinFromWithin in their hockey careers, five CHL players earned invitations to Gatorade’s inaugural #GCAMP held July 26th and 27th at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
Will Petschenig (Saginaw Spirit), Liam Herbst (Guelph Storm), Jermaine Loewen (Kamloops Blazers), Lukus MacKenzie (Saskatoon Blades) and Samuel Laberge (Rimouski Oceanic) have all had unique life experiences and find a common bond playing the game they love, reaching the Canadian Hockey League where they’ve been role models on and off the ice.
#GCAMP is a world class training camp for high-level men’s and women’s players between the ages of 14-19 from all levels across the country. Players invited to the camp have overcome great adversity over the course of their career, persevering through serious injury, health difficulties, racial or ethnic barriers or the loss of a loved one among other challenges.
Players participated in on and off-ice training sessions, learned about nutrition and hydration and worked on their skills alongside special guests in NHL stars Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens), former Brampton Battalion rearguard Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and former Oshawa Generals and London Knights star John Tavares (New York Islanders). Day two of #GCAMP featured surprise appearances from CHL graduates Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Oceanic) and P.K. Subban (Nashville Predators).
“It’s an amazing experience being here,” said CHL Humanitarian of the Year Will Petschenig, a veteran defenceman who recently graduated from the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit before signing a pro contract in Switzerland. “Some of the other athletes here have overcome a lot in their lives. For Gatorade to provide this platform for athletes is just outstanding.”
Petschenig lost his father Dan, a former Toronto Argonauts lineman at the age of 50 in October 2013. Having gone through such a trial, Petschenig reached out to others as an overage defenceman in Saginaw this past season, starting the “Heart Like Mine” initiative where he befriended children in the community who had gone through similar challenges, giving them all-access treatment at Spirit home games while dubbing them “Will’s Warriors.”
“Having lost a parent I know how important it is to have someone to talk to, and to be able to share a bond with these other athletes is great,” he added. “It helps us remember that we’re not alone.”
Kamloops Blazers forward Jermaine Loewen offers another inspiring story. An 18-year-old originally from Mandeville, Jamaica, Loewen came to Canada at the age of three after being adopted by his parents Stan and Tara. Loewen adapted to the new culture, growing up in Arborg, Manitoba before being selected by the Blazers in the third round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. The 6’3″, 205Ib. winger who models his game after Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds had 15 points (8-7–15) in 67 games last season.
“I feel very blessed to be here,” he said of the experience at #GCAMP. “Everyone here has been through challenges and it’s cool to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and learn about where they’ve come from. We all have a story.”
The QMJHL also has representation at #GCAMP. 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Samuel Laberge of the Rimouski Oceanic, who strives to make a difference on the ice and in the community, is enjoying his time in Toronto.
“I’m really honoured to be here, to get to know other athletes and play the sport that we all love,” he said. “We all have struggles both on the ice and off the ice, but hockey is a game of perseverance and we’re all here to make each other better this week.”
Additionally, OHL prospects Jake Murray (Hamilton Bulldogs) and goaltender Nate McDonald (Peterborough Petes) earned invitations to the event.
The camp has offered participants a chance to work and play as the group saw the Toronto Blue Jays defeat the San Diego Padres 7-6 in extra innings on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s camp featured the presence of Crosby and Subban along with a visit from Canadian national women’s hockey icon Jennifer Botterill who brought her Olympic medals along for all to see.
Other Canadian women’s champions at #GCAMP included accomplished forwards in Hayley Wickenheiser and Marie-Philip Poulin.
Be sure to check out #GCAMP on Twitter.