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Going above and beyond the call of duty as a coach and mentor was a common theme in the nomination forms for Penticton Jr. Vees U11 – (Penticton MHA U11 Jr. Vees) coach Daryl Stepaniuk.

Lessons he has shared in life and hockey and now passes on to his players have earned him one of five Fred Heslop Minor Hockey Awards. The award recognizes volunteers who have made significant contributions to BC Hockey, their association and community – people who have enhanced programs, gone beyond expectations and made remarkable achievements.

The Heslop Award is named after past BC Hockey President and long-time volunteer, Fred Heslop, whose involvement with BC Hockey spanned more than two decades. The Trail, B.C. native served in many capacities on the board and in 2007, BC Hockey, awarded him the highest honour when he was presented with the Diamond Stick Award. Heslop passed away in late 2013, leaving a legacy behind him.

“I take pride in it because it kind of indicates doing things a little bit differently,” he said of receiving the award. “That’s the reason our parents wanted to make the nomination. When you do things differently and approach it in a different way, people see it and gravitate towards it because they see different values in it. That’s what touched them”.

“To me it’s not about the wins but developing that kind of warrior peace with the kids. I think that’s what we do in sport. That’s what we teach the kids. It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about finding your spirit. On the bench you come off from a shift and I find out where they are”.

“Sometimes you’re too high and sometimes too low and you get them to find that spirit, that spirit that gives them the confidence in the team setting and then the team performs differently.”

It’s about values for Stepaniuk and he maintained that through the year. Those values brought the U11 team together as a group, which was the pay off for the coaches and the parents, eventually teaching leadership and motivation.

Stepaniuk played as a 16-year-old in junior hockey in B.C. and dealt with a number of concussions through his minor hockey and junior careers. Eventually, he struggled with his mental health and he grew through those challenges and has helped him with building character in his current players.

Working with them through those emotional rollercoasters has defined Stepaniuk through his coaching career.

“Motivating is what you do as a coach. You support them through those ups and downs,” he stressed. “You learn that you have strengths within you, even as a nine- or 10-year-old. It’s a privilege to be a part of that, something that not everyone gets to do and when you get to do it you take the responsibility seriously.”

Mario Annicchiarico is a freelance writer based in Victoria who has previously covered the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Western Hockey League.