The 2023 Sport Festival by Sport Calgary wrapped up on Sunday, but not before Calgarians had a chance to try sports like curling, figure skating, speed skating, and sledge hockey for themselves.
The event, held as part of the Chinook Blast festival, encouraged Calgarians to take part in new sports, and to build accessible sporting culture within the city.
“We are offering demonstration of sports for Calgarians to see what is available for the winter, and for the summer as well,” said Sandra Paire, Vice-President, Membership and Business Administration for Sport Calgary.
“People have been braving the cold to try out curling, speed skating, and figure skating… and we encourage Calgarians to be active and to try a new sport and discover a new passion.”
The festival was also the lead up to Sport Calgary’s All Sport One City, which allows Calgarians to try out dozens of different sports for free from Feb. 11 through 20.
She said that part of the goal from the 2023 Sport Festival was to eliminate the urban myths around only elite and high-performance athletes being able to take part in sports like speed skating.
They also wanted to encourage Calgarians to find local sports clubs in their communities.
Both the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Surge had a presence at the festival, with Flames mascot Harvey the Hound greeting guests and Calgary Surge representatives getting Calgarians excited about the upcoming inaugural season.
Amped up by AMP Youth Hockey
AMP Youth Hockey—which stands for amplified multisport pathway—was giving Calgarians an opportunity to try sledge hockey on the Olympic Plaza ice on Sunday.
The organization is one of the few in Canada that have programs for both hockey and sledge hockey.
“Our organization was started up by a bunch of former athletes that were very passionate and a little bit mortified with the culture in hockey,” said founder and managing partner of AMP, Brad Layzell
“It’s become a real toxic environment for some players and coaches, and even referees and parents, so we want to do something that’s very different and really make it more about development and a very inclusive environment where we have stand-up [hockey] and we have sledge [hockey] athletes.”
He said that being able to partner with Sport Calgary for the festival, and to bring sledge hockey to Olympic Plaza, helps to educate the public that the sport exists.
“We’re really honoured just to have the opportunity. The more people that can learn about the sport, the more they can get into sled and get out there and play,” Layzell said.
The sport itself is not limited to para-athletes, said Layzell. Anyone regardless of physical ability is able to take part in the sport.
He said that AMP also runs a federally-regulated charity in order to cover some of the costs that present a financial barrier to people taking part in the sport.
“The adaptive side is really tough because you have families that are usually dealing with pretty unique injuries, so this the equipment gets really expensive, and just getting involved can be really tough on families,” Layzell said.
Speed skating not just indoors
Josie Daub, President of the Calgary Speed Skating Association, said that her organization attended the Sport Calgary weekend to show Calgarians that speed skating is for everyone.
“Our oldest member is actually 83 years old. He’s still young at heart, and he still goes around and skates and and sometimes he competes every once in a while, too,” Daub said.
She called skating at Olympic Plaza a great opportunity to showcase the sport, and to remind Calgarians there are lots of places around the city to take part.
“We do race outdoors sometimes, so we are used to being outdoors occasionally,” Daub said.
“This is nice to be able to take it out, and being able to appeal or attract a broader audience by doing it outdoors here.”
She said that Calgarians who missed the weekend’s free tryout session at Olympic Plaza could do so again at the Olympic Oval at one of their monthly sessions.
And for people who want to become more active in the sport, there are lots of locations around the city to practice and compete in addition to the Olympic Oval, like the Seton and Rocky Ridge YMCAs.