Local goalie Erik Giesbrecht was awarded the Jack Koteles Memorial Award for Strong Commitment to Community Service from the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association.
The award was supposed to be given last year, but there was a minor hiccup that caused a bit of a delay as the award was originally printed with the wrong name — his father’s.
While Jeff Giesbrecht also has gone above and beyond for minor hockey volunteering his time, said Ole Kjenstad, coach of the Clearwater Icehawks, the award was for Erik, for the time and energy he has put into helping coach the younger goalies with teammate Piet Oud.
“I’m glad they fixed it,” said Kjenstad. “I’m glad Erik is getting the recognition he deserves for sure.”
For the last few years, Geisbrecht would help to coach the younger goalies once a week for about an hour or so. He said one major reason for doing it was to provide a level of coaching that they weren’t able to get when they were younger.
“We both knew how it was being goalies trying to figure out all that stuff on our own so we both wanted to help as much as we could with that and try to give them the best start that they could get,” said Giesbrecht.
This included attending the young goalies’ home games whenever they were able, to watch their style and provide feedback. While they weren’t able to make every game, every once in a while the home games would line up.
When he was younger, Giesbrecht remembers the midget goalies coming out to coach a bit when he and Oud were in novice-level hockey. That little bit of ice time really helped him out, he said, and so he wanted to make sure other goalies in the area had the same opportunity.
Clearwater also doesn’t have many opportunities for hockey camps, he added, so he felt they were missing that extra bit of experience.
“It was really just about that: giving them the opportunity we didn’t really have,” said Giesbrecht. “It’s just having a goalie coach.”
Giesbrecht isn’t playing this year, but had long been part of a goaltending duo, both on and off the ice. The Icehawks had a great 2019-20 season, said Kjenstad, adding a lot of it was attributed to their goalies. They were heading into the playoffs having lost less than a handful of games, but, unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the season came to a halt just days before the team was to hit the road.
Not only did the duo play well for the team, they are fantastic mentors to the younger kids, something Kjenstad said is tough to come across in their age group.
“I’m not sure I’ve had that many kids in my entire time coaching minor hockey that had the character level of both of these two kids,” he said. “They’re just hard-working, great teammates, wanted to win, were willing to give back — that’s why they received this award.”