Kids have Safe and Fun time at hockey festival

Several local children traveled to Thunder Bay last weekend to join a hundred other young boys and girls aged five to nine from Northwestern Ontario at the Chevrolet Safe and Fun hockey festival.
The festival, currently in its ninth year, rotates throughout the nation bringing in hundreds of hockey loving kids and promoting positive attitudes in the sport.
“The program is centred around teaching two core things – respect and responsibility on and off the ice,” said Fred Lautenschlager, sponsorship manager for General Motors of Canada. “It’s not about a skills camp for kids.”
A number of local hockey-loving children attended the event, including Jamie Busch’s seven-year-old son Jon. The elder Busch came back with a great appreciation for the event.
“It was just a great, great time,” he said. “They just tried to bring the fun back into hockey. I think a lot of the focus was just trying to teach the kids that you’re not in it to pressure yourself or be pressured.”
He added that he saw about a half-dozen familiar faces from Fort Frances and nearby communities like Devlin and Emo.
One of the big draws to the event was the presence of hockey legends Bobby Orr and Cassie Campbell, who worked with the children extensively throughout the weekend.
Lautenschlager explained that Orr’s affiliation with the event goes beyond turning out for a weekend – the event was developed with his input and the famed defenseman helped write the program.
Children are selected to the Safe and Fun Festival by random ballot. Busch said his son was quite happy to have been chosen. “He eats sleeps and breathes hockey for a little guy… he really had a fun time,” he said. “They were pretty tired by the end of it, eh? It was a very busy weekend for them. But they absorbed a lot, I think.”
There was plenty of important advice to absorb, Busch added.
“Hockey is supposed to be fun, not about getting to the NHL,” he said. “They got the focus back to being kids and having fun.
“It’s not what kids should be worried about, or parents, for that matter.”
Lautenschlager agreed, and said General Motors was proud their support for the sport starts at the ground level with events like this.
“Absolutely grassroots, and you know, that’s key for us,” Lautenschlager said. “It’s not just about putting our name on a jersey and saying ‘we support hockey’.”