2019 wjac henderson family feature

Hockey and the Hendersons

The Henderson family has never hesitated to give their time – and their home – whenever Dawson Creek has welcomed Hockey Canada over the last decade

Chris Jurewicz
December 11, 2019

Kevin Henderson describes the role of team host as someone who solves the problems of others.

Pretty straightforward, but definitely not easy.

Henderson is back at it again this week for the 2019 World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C., a community that has become a go-to for Hockey Canada events, from the 2009 National Women’s Team -pre-Olympic boot camp to the National Women’s Under-18 Championship and World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Henderson has been front and centre at all of the events as a volunteer, primarily as a team host. He is placed with one of the competing teams and is the first person contacted when a problem arises – like when a player forgets to pack some of his gear.

“One kid forgot his skates this year so I was asked, ‘Can we figure something out?’ ” says Henderson, who by day is the general manager of development services at the City of Dawson Creek. “I play hockey with a guy who owns a sports store. He gave us a brand-new pair of skates for this kid to wear in practices and an exhibition game while his skates were being shipped.

“That’s the beauty of a small town. It speaks to the community and willingness to help.”

That sense of coming together and doing whatever is necessary has put Dawson Creek on the map. Hockey Canada regularly identifies communities that have the ability to host national events. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t work as well. With Dawson Creek it has become a success, each and every time.

Henderson points to the history of his community working with Canada’s national hockey body. In 2009, Canada’s National Women’s Team needed a small community, away from the media glare, for its summer boot camp, a month-long event that sees players and staff move into a community for on- and off-ice training and team building.

Dawson Creek welcomed the team with open arms, with residents opening up their homes for players and staff to live in. The Henderson family – Kevin, his wife Tyra and their children, Hudson and Rachel – moved out of their home and in with Tyra’s parents, who were on an acreage about 15 minutes outside of town.

The Henderson house turned into the home for Team Canada athletes Meaghan Mikkelson, Brianne Jenner, Charline Labonté and Delaney Collins, two of whom – Mikkelson and Labonté – would be on the ice in Vancouver months later celebrating Olympic gold.

“It was great to see how that process started in Dawson Creek and went right through to the Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver,” says Henderson. “Knowing you had a little part to play in that process was pretty cool. I know some of the women’s players still talk about that experience in Dawson Creek. It was great that we had the ability to do that.”

The boot camp acted as a sort of springboard for events in Dawson Creek.

In November 2012, the city welcomed the National Women’s Under-18 Championship. Henderson was team host for Ontario Blue, with Rachel acting as a junior host and getting the chance to hang around the players and soak it all in, including an opportunity to skate with the team in warm-up.

Ontario Blue ended up making history, upsetting Ontario Red – the seven-time defending champion – in the semifinal en route to a gold medal.

Fast forward three years and Dawson Creek is hosting the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Henderson is host for Canada White, Hudson is junior host and, once again, the team Henderson is hosting makes it to the gold medal game. Hudson’s role at that event was really to shadow the team trainers. He filled water bottles, grabbed sticks for players and was the classic rink rat that got to experience so much.

Henderson says that experience was unlike any other for his small community.

“Our facility (the Encana Events Centre) had never seen anything like that,” says Henderson. “There were about 4,000 people in there for the final, it was jammed to the rafters. Canada versus Russia … it doesn’t get any better than that. These are the kinds of things that are great for small communities like Dawson Creek.”

The under-17 event returned to Dawson Creek in 2017, with Henderson acting once again host for Canada White, which this time finished with bronze.

Henderson’s involvement with Hockey Canada is just one part of his love of hockey. He didn’t play the game as a child and started around the age of 30, when Hudson’s interest in hockey began. Both of his children – Hudson is now 21 and Rachel is 19 – grew up at the rink, both played hockey and Henderson and his wife lent countless hours to minor hockey as volunteers – he a coach and she a team manager.

It has been just over 10 years since Dawson Creek hosted Team Canada at that boot camp and the community continues to rally around Hockey Canada events.

“Our city is very fortunate to have a core group of volunteers who got involved in 2009-10,” he says. “We have been able to keep that core group together. That makes it a lot easier from a host community perspective to pull off these events. Everybody takes pride in this and we all strive to do a good job.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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