Corrections: An earlier version of this story indicated that the Brendon Oreto Hockey School was to teach underprivileged kids the fundamentals of hockey. In fact, youth from all walks of life can participate. This story also incorrectly stated that the Fredericton Red Wings participated as coaching staff for the camp. In fact, the coaching staff consisted of players from St. Thomas University, the University of New Brunswick, Leo Hayes High School, École Sainte-Anne and Fredericton High School. It also stated Brendon Oreto died in 1999. In fact, he died in 1998. The Aquinian received inaccurate information initially. We regret these errors.
Fast plays, big hits and the occasional punches on the ice. While all three might come to mind for hockey fans, that’s not the case for Peter Murphy, head coach of the Tommies women’s hockey team at St. Thomas University.
“One of the things we look for the most in our players is character,” said Murphy.
The STU women’s team has played varsity hockey since 1998 and Murphy’s been part of it for the past 21 years. While he’s seen the highs and lows, he won it all in 2019 when STU took home the championship for Atlantic University Sport (AUS).
Four LeRoy Washburn Community Awards sit on Murphy’s office window ledge, recognizing the team for outstanding involvement in the community. Washburn was a prominent figure in STU’s athletic program and advocated for community involvement.
“The record for volunteer hours was 416 hours, so they [2021-22 team] decided they wanted to set the record at 500 and they achieved 512 by the end of the year,” said Murphy. “I have a feeling this team [2022-23] will say they want to go for more [hours] than that.”
Murphy said the team involves itself in hockey camps every year for young kids who excel in hockey or just starting out.
On Sept. 10 and 11, players helped at the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation New Brunswick camp, which allows elite athletes to work on their skills. With university athletes on the ice, Murphy said the young skaters appreciated what goes on during play.
“That’s probably the best part of the camp because it’s one thing to do drills, but when they’re out there playing with university girls, they want to play well and they start to see the game the way [the Tommies] see it,” said Murphy.
Murphy said the kids do a three-on-three drill with players as opposed to explaining a situation because it prompts the kids to think for themselves in the moment.
“What you’re looking for are those times when the lightbulb comes on; when they figure it out on their own and you don’t have to tell them again,” said Murphy.
Before that camp, the team spent time with 38 kids on Sept. 12 at the Brendon Oreto Hockey School, held at Willie O’Ree Place.
The camp brought in coaches and players from STU, the University of New Brunswick, Leo Hayes High School, École Sainte-Anne and Fredericton High School to teach youth from all walks of life the fundamentals of hockey.
The Brendon Oreto Foundation runs the yearly hockey camp. The foundation was named after Brendon Oreto, son of STU alumni Tony Oreto and friend of Murphy, who passed away in a car accident in 1998 — he was 19.
People who went spoke about their experiences with STU participation. Lyn Munn, the mother of one of the participants, recalls the first night with the STU women’s team after her son came out of the rink.
“He said, ‘Mom, don’t ask if I liked it because I didn’t [like it] — I loved it!’”
Paul Sherman, the father of another participant, said his son, Isaiah, liked that older players helped with coaching and showed them what they can become.
“I think the older kids enjoyed it as much as the young ones. It’s important for older kids to mentor the young ones,” he said.
One of those “older kids” is Tommies forward Amy Dvernichuk.
“I’m excited to see young girls and boys succeed in their dreams. It’s a warm feeling for me,” she said.
During one of the drills, the kids were told to keep the puck away from the Tommies, but coaches didn’t tell them how, which Dvernichuk said forces them to be creative.
“I think it’s better for the kids to learn on their own and not be told exactly how to do it because you’re never going to expand your mind if you’re just doing what you’re told,” said Dvernichuk.