The 2020-21 Fort St. John Elks Speed Season is officially underway, with skaters diligently giving their all on the Pomeroy Sport Centre oval, despite needing to wear a mask at all times and not knowing when they will be able to race in competitions. Leading them once again is the newly-named 2019 ViaSport Coach of the Year Richard Stickel. Though it's almost the end of 2020, Stickel was due to receive the award in the spring before the ceremony and announcement was put on hold due to COVID-19.
“I am very honored to receive this award. I have worked with so many thoughtful, caring coaches that it is humbling to be singled out. I have had the pleasure of coaching so many wonderful athletes over the years. I would like to thank the Fort St. John Elks speed skating club and the BC Speed Skating Association (BCSSA) for all of their support and encouragement. This is truly a team award," Stickel said.
Stickel has been coaching with the Elks for more than 20 years, and has been recognized for his efforts in the past. He was won the B.C. Speed Skating Coach of the Year award, as well as the Gagne Family Award from Speed Skating Canada, given to him and his family for their overall contributions towards the sport.
Skater Hannah North said Stickel is a great coach and very deserving of the award.
"There's lots of great coaches in our province but he's one of the best, and we're so lucky to have him. He's so understanding and knows exactly what we need to work on and how we can get there," North said.
ViaSport, B.C.'s provincial governing sports body, said the awards are, "are an important part of viaSport’s mission to support and empower coaches. These three individuals were nominated by their sport community and selected by an expert panel as embodiments of the amazing contributions to sport that we see happening across our province."
The Elks have been on the ice for three weeks, faithfully training every week. While the on-ice portion is mostly unaffected (the oval is a large surface and skaters are mostly distanced as they skate), skaters and coaches do have to wear a mask, and have to distance themselves when lacing up their skates and working out off ice.
"The season is going pretty well so far, and nobody is realyl complaining about the masks so I'm surprised. We're just all glad to be back on the ice together," said North. "It's definitely harder skating with the mask, but like our coach says, people climb mountains just to get lung strength so this can do the same for us."
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.