Healthy Living in the North

Stanley Cup visits Gateway Lodge

Residents and staff at Gateway Lodge in Prince George spent the morning with Brett Connolly and the Stanley Cup.

Brett Connolly shows Stanley Cup to resident.

Connolly shows the Stanley Cup to Gateway Lodge residents.

Connolly is a forward for the Washington Capitals, who won the Stanley cup this past season. As is tradition, each season every member of the winning team gets one day with cup. Most players take it to their hometowns and celebrate the championship with family, friends, and the community. Since Brett is from PG, played minor hockey here, and spent four seasons with the Prince George Cougars (WHL), it was only fitting that he brought Lord Stanley’s Cup back to where his hockey journey began.

Brett Connolly poses with Gateway Lodge staff.

Connolly (second from the left) poses with Gateway Lodge staff, including his aunt Lynn AuCoin (far right).

Connolly’s mom Dawn Connolly and aunt Lynn AuCoin are NH staff at Gateway Lodge. Both were excited to have Connolly bring the cup and share it with the Gateway residents. Residents took pictures with Connolly and the cup, a few held it and two residents even kissed the cup.

Connolly poses with resident.

Connolly pictured with 100 year old resident Elsie Christenson.

After his time at Gateway Lodge, Connolly headed straight to the CN Centre for the official Prince George Stanley Cup Party.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.


It’s not about the smoke

Young child holding a hockey stick and wearing a hockey helmet.

Tobacco use is a significant problem on hockey teams. As a parent, coach, or adult player, there are things you can do to prevent or stop tobacco use in sports.

It’s that time of year again. Hockey fans are busy digging out hockey gear, getting skates sharpened and taping sticks – getting ready for the first puck drop of the season.

Unfortunately, hockey has a dark secret – one that’s more commonly associated with Major League Baseball. It’s a problem you can neither see, usually, nor smell. Organized hockey has a tobacco problem that has made its way into the sport — from children as young as 13 to NHL professionals. The problem is the use of chewing tobacco or snus.

The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba recently surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12-21 regarding substance use. The survey found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By the age of twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported that they had tried “chew.”

They also found that youth in grades 9-12 who participated in team sports had nearly double the risk of trying smokeless tobacco.

Another study by the Waterloo Sports Medicine Centre and University of Waterloo in 2010 found that smokeless tobacco use among Canadian hockey players appears to be common, with results comparable to similar studies in the U.S.

We’re all aware of the dangers associated with the use of smoking. However, I’d be willing to bet a bag of pucks that not many of us are aware of how many hockey players use smokeless tobacco. For hockey parents, this can be particularly troubling as the sport that they put their child in to keep them active and healthy could potentially lead to tobacco use.

But there are some things you can do about it:

  • If you’re a hockey parent, make sure that you talk to your children about tobacco. Be involved in the game and help out. Don’t just drop your child off in the dressing room and then head for the bleachers. Make sure you know what’s going on.
  • Coaches have a big influence on the players they work with. If you’re a coach, use that influence to send the message that tobacco and hockey don’t belong in the same arena.
  • If you’re a player, don’t use any form of tobacco. Whether you play in a fun recreational league or a highly competitive elite league, some young hockey player is probably looking up to you. To your children, you are the best player on the ice. Set the example for them.

Hockey organizations and municipalities can also develop, promote, and enforce tobacco-free policies that address tobacco use. Tobacco-free policies send the message that hockey and tobacco don’t mix, but to be effective, they also need to be promoted and adhered to. That means everyone from the fans in the arena bleachers to the players on the dressing room bench has to be in the game.

Hockey is a great sport with a lot of benefits for those who play; we just need to work together to bench tobacco.

If you want more information on tobacco-free sports, visit Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling, information, and support as well as free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Keep Your Breath

A man rides a bike

Smoking will be detrimental to your physical performance.

I have to admit, it’s been a great summer. The decent weather has let me ride my bike to work often and encouraged me to work towards my goal of running five kilometers. With all this exercise, I’m feeling great.

But it’s not going to last forever, the decent weather that is. When it’s cold and wet, the last thing I want to do is go for a run or hop on my bike. Fortunately for me, hockey is just around the corner. For others, sports such as basketball, racquetball, squash, volleyball, indoor badminton and floor hockey may be appealing ways to keep active over the winter.

Typically, when you think of these activities, you don’t think of smoking, but how often do you see someone having a smoke outside the arena or recreation center? Some of the guys I’ve played hockey with have told me that a smoke before the game “picks them up” and “helps them focus.” However, smoking is not going to help your game in the end.

A 2013 study of female university athletes looked at the effect of smoking on athletic performance. In this study, 12 smokers and 21 non-smokers were asked to perform stress tests and six shuttle run tests to determine the impacts of smoking on aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity.* What the researchers found was:

  • During shuttle runs four to six, the smokers’ average power decreased significantly.
  • Non-smokers were able to take in and use more oxygen during intense exercise.
  • The smoking group was less capable of dealing with fatigue.
  • Smoking impaired the athletes’ ability to recover after high intensity exercise.

Another study that examined the effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system noted a 10% decrease in the time smokers could exercise before becoming exhausted. This was attributed to a lack of available oxygen to the muscles.

Sports like hockey, basketball and racquetball all require short, intense bursts of speed and/or power that are anaerobic in nature. As the studies show, smoking has a negative impact on our body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen. This results in a loss of power, endurance, and a decreased ability to recover from intense activity.

If you have a quick smoke before the game, it’s going to catch up with you. In the second or third period, you’ll be gasping for air on the bench between shifts and lagging behind the play when you’re on the ice. That awe-inspiring, highlight reel move is going to be harder to pull off when the power in your legs is used up in the first half of the game.

Is that bit of a pick-up worth a weak finish? I don’t think so.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling and free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

*Anaerobic exercises are done with maximum intensity for short bursts (i.e. sprinting) where the energy requirement of the body exceeds that provided by breathing, and therefore, the body is forced to work without oxygen.  Aerobic exercises are the ones where oxygen is used to produce energy in order to fuel the body for a prolonged activity (i.e., marathon running)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Keep Your Stick on the Ice: Pond hockey in northern BC

pond hockey, winter, physical activity

During the Fort St. John Winter Festival, over 40 teams will hit the ice to compete for the Crystal Cup – an annual pond hockey tournament.

I’m writing this post is for none other than one of my favorite pastimes … pond hockey! Can you be more Canadian than bundling up and gathering on a frozen lake to watch or play some hockey?!

This weekend (February 7-10, 2014), Fort St. John is hosting the 3rd annual Crystal Cup Pond Hockey Challenge. We have upwards of 40 teams registered from around the north peace area and beyond. The hockey is all played on the south end of Charlie Lake (just 10 minutes north of Fort St. John). We will have eight player rinks, a public rink, a kid’s rink, food vendors and live music.

The story all began in the fall of 2011 when I was approached by the City of Fort St. John to host an outdoor pond hockey tournament as part of the local Winter Festival. The festival organizers wanted to attract a target audience that had been missing in previous years: males aged 19 to 35. Due to my event planning experience and organizational skills, a “bug” was put in my ear and I’m glad it was. I took it upon myself to develop the best pond hockey tournament that British Columbia and the rest of Canada will ever see.

I researched every pond hockey tournament I could find. I amalgamated the rules and regulations that fit our event. I gathered up a team of friends from the local recreational hockey team I play with and we began exploring ways to make it happen. The first two years we learned a lot about organizing an outdoor event in the middle of the winter on a frozen lake in northern Canada. Let’s just say our nerves were shot at times thanks to Mother Nature not playing nice. Although we’ve had many trials and tribulations, we’ve surfaced once again this year bigger and better than ever. This is the first year that we have organized a kid’s tournament because we felt they were missing out in previous years. We also decided to add some pizzazz, so we created a social event and live music right in the gardens. We’ve managed to line bands up for both nights and it should be a great time – a hootenanny if you will!

We welcome you to come and join us! If you want to watch some hockey, come and join us on either Saturday or Sunday – sticks hit the ice at 10am both days. The social night is on Saturday and the music starts at 7pm.

Neil Evans

About Neil Evans

Born and raised in Fort St. John, Neil Evans is an inpatient unit leader at the Fort St. John hospital. He completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Victoria in 2006. He is a proud father of two sons and is happily married to his wife, Loni. Neil is also an active community fundraiser and event planner. Since 2010, he has raised over $25,000 for Movember and is the founder and president of the local pond hockey event in Fort St. John, The Crystal Cup.


Prince George Cougars trainer talks concussions

Canada's game - a risky one.

Canada’s game – a game that sees many headlines for its dangers.

The overarching theme of my youth was sports: I played baseball, hockey, tennis, volleyball, basketball and golf. Those activities were accompanied by a lot of great friends, a competitiveness that helps me succeed to this day, and, unfortunately, injuries. There are a couple injuries that stand out more than others, but the one that always comes to mind when I think about my injuries is the first time I was concussed.

I was playing midget hockey in Port Moody, where I grew up. As I tried to fish the puck out from between my skates, a taller player skated past me, landing a hefty elbow to my jaw. Despite the fact that I was wearing a cage, I dropped. This happened around 1997, when the mentality of head injuries was changing from “you just got your bell rung” to the concussion culture we know today. I vividly recall opening my eyes, seeing green spots and thinking to myself, “Oh, so this is a concussion.” Luckily for me, it wasn’t significant and the recovery time was only a week.

Today, most people have either had a concussion or have seen a highlight of someone who’s suffered one. For instance, Sidney Crosby getting blindsided in the Winter Classic was played over and over again as his highly anticipated return from the resulting concussion drew near. Because sport and concussion is so closely linked, I spoke with Ramandeep “Chico” Dhanjal, Head Trainer with the Prince George Cougars, to discuss concussions and Canada’s game.

Chico, are they any exercises a person can do to limit their chances of suffering a concussion?

There are no exercises that can prevent you from getting a concussion.

What hockey-related suggestions would you give a person to help avoid concussions?

Be aware of your setting and know where you are on the ice – are you close to the boards or in open ice? Also, make sure that you are properly fitted with equipment like helmets and mouth guards.

What tests do you do to determine if a player is concussed?                                       

A player must do a baseline online concussion test every year at the beginning of the season. If a player is hurt during a game or practice we use the new sport concussion testing called the SCAT3. If a player shows any symptoms of having a concussion that are revealed on the test then he is subject to rest until symptom free.

Are you noticing a changing culture in hockey around playing with a concussion?

There is certainly a change. The game has changed so much; players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger. But we are also seeing symptoms sooner and faster. Players are getting smarter now in recognizing that if they are not feeling like their normal self and have symptoms to let someone know sooner than later.

What risks does a player subject themselves to by playing with a concussion?

The major risk of playing with a concussion is having yourself injured for a longer period of time. A concussion can slow down your reaction time, thinking and awareness of your surroundings on the ice, putting yourself at danger and risk of further injuring yourself. Also, your recovery time can be increased by playing with a concussion and you will be out for a longer period of time.

For more information on concussions, please visit Northern Health’s concussion page.

You can also find more hockey-related concussion information at Hockey Canada.

And don’t forget to show us how you’re preventing concussions by entering our Falls Across the Ages page (Editor’s note: the contest is now closed).


Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.