What better way to celebrate Hockey Day in Canada than playing on an outdoor rink?
Todd Strueby, born and raised in Lanigan, SK, is a retired professional hockey player and an Outdoor Hockey League (OHL) volunteer. Todd has a storied hockey history – for many years, he bounced around minor leagues and the International Hockey League, and even played a few games with the Edmonton Oilers.
He’s humble about his NHL experience, saying, “It was a long, long time ago and I only played a few games.”
“But,” he adds, “it was absolutely amazing.”
After his career
Todd remembers when the OHL began 25 years ago, and had the opportunity to meet OHL founder Russ Matthews.
OHL is a free hockey league run by Ehrlo Sport Venture for Regina youth who are unable to participate in traditional, organized sports. All equipment is provided, thereby eliminating the need for hard-to-afford equipment purchases.
“I’ve always respected the initiative,” Todd explained. “I thought, what a great opportunity to allow kids to play hockey the way I learned to play hockey. Just going out on the outdoor rink and getting a bunch of kids out there and a puck on the ice.”
However, at that time, Todd was quite busy – he coached his own kids’ minor hockey league teams and spent a few seasons in the late 2000s with the Regina Pats organization. All while keeping up with the game through participation in a rec league but he always intended to volunteer with the OHL.
25 years later, his kids are grown and his time is free to help with the homegrown hockey that the OHL represents. So last year, Todd began coaching at the Imperial Outdoor rink.
So far, he’s had a fantastic experience – his fellow volunteers, he says, make the experience even better. He enjoys having the opportunity to work with others who share his passion for hockey, including some who spent their younger years in the OHL and returned to the league as coaches.
“I think that’s how the OHL is so successful; the kids that go through the program come back and want to help out,” he said.
In the past two years, Todd has met countless youth who have helped him re-ignite his passion for hockey.
“This experience has rejuvenated my love for the game because these kids are there because they want to be there and they love hockey.”
But as any OHL volunteer or player knows, it’s about more than just hockey – the OHL brings out values like teamwork and cooperation. Todd recalls a particular youth who was very talented – perhaps the best in the OHL at that time – but rather than focus on his own talent, the youth was known for passing the puck to make sure all the players could be involved in the game, even the ones just learning to skate.
Todd’s team, like all in the OHL, gathers one night a week to practice. They run through basic skills like skating, passing, and shooting, and split into teams to play a game.
“No kid ever complains how cold it is.” He added, “It’s beautiful – whether it’s warm or cold, or the sun is shining or it’s dark at night, there is something about it which is pure.”
Hockey Day in Canada:
Join us to celebrate 25 years of the Outdoor Hockey League and see why we love hockey in Canada! At our Rosemont and Cathedral rinks, our OHL will be hosting Hockey Day in Canada in preparation for their appearance on Roger’s Hometown Hockey the following weekend.
Feb 10th at: Cathedral Rink (Leslie Park Outdoor Rink) 9am-3pm or Rosemont Rink (4th Ave and Minto Dr) 11am-4pm.
Everyone is invited to learn to play hockey or brush up on some drills. There will be free skates available to borrow, as well as hot chocolate and hot dogs for players and spectators.