Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vancouver Sun Features Edwards

Edwards Humanitarian Work Recognized
By Gary Kingston

The Western Hockey League will honour its best in Calgary on Wednesday, saluting the talented teens maturing into celebrated young men with bright futures.

That the loop's awards banquet -which includes recognition for Humanitarian of the Year -comes just four days after a 17-year-old Regina Pats defenceman was involved in a rollover crash outside of Calgary in which his female passenger was killed, highlights the stark lessons of responsible decisions. RCMP say alcohol and speed likely contributed to the crash.

The Eastern Division nominee for the humanitarian award is the remarkable Spencer Edwards, a Coquitlam native who was the Moose Jaw Warriors captain in his final season.

Among other community initiatives, Edwards and two teammates had monthly discussions with students at an alternative school in Moose Jaw for high schoolers struggling with drugs, alcohol and behavioural issues.
"It was tough sometimes," Edwards said in a recent interview. "From day to day, you never knew whether they'd be into it or not."

He said the players would discuss commitment and punctuality in their "jobs" as junior hockey players and the consequences of getting mixed up in drugs or abuse of alcohol.

"We'd draw from stuff we know, stuff we've heard and relate it to our job and how that doesn't fly, and how the issues will be the same to get jobs. We went over the consequences for us if we get caught with that happening. I hope they got something out of it."

Edwards also donned unfamiliar speed skates as part of the "Get Gutsy" campaign to raise money for Crohn's disease and colitis.

But his most significant initiative was establishing "Captain's Care," where he would visit sick kids in the pediatric ward at Moose Jaw Union Hospital. It's a program he hopes will be continued by future team captains.

Edwards, who spends hours with kids playing games or just talking, says he was inspired in part by the situation of a former bantam coach, whose toddler daughter was diagnosed with cancer and died.
"I always remember thinking about that," says the wellspoken Edwards. "Her parents were such kind-hearted people and she was such an innocent little girl. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I couldn't imagine what they were going through."

Edwards was also motivated by his stubborn battle to make the WHL.

Just a 10th-round bantam draft pick by Red Deer in 2006 -"192nd overall," he says with a tinge of still-lingering bitterness -he played 30 games in the 2007-08 season before being dropped to Cowichan Valley of the B.C. Junior League. The next season, he was traded to Seattle, but was cut early in the year and landed back in Cowichan Valley.

"It was pretty devastating. A lot of guys who get cut and play Junior A just kind of shut it down. But I didn't feel like ending my junior career that way, being cut and just forgotten about. I wanted to get back and make a name for myself."

Edwards finally caught on with Moose Jaw in 2009 and after attending the San Jose Sharks camp in 2010, returned to Moose Jaw for the 2010-11 season as captain, scoring 27 goals and adding 39 assists in 63 games and developing into a solid two-way player.
While his mom and dad separated when he was young, his parents lived close and remained friends and he credits their compassion and alwayshelp-others attitude for his approach.
Dean Edwards says the family is "unbelievably proud" of Spencer's perseverance in making it to the WHL and his role model character.

"I think when he finally got to Moose Jaw, he was so grateful and felt so privileged to be there," says Dean. "It was such a struggle for him and he wanted to take full advantage of that. You know, all hockey is is people chasing a piece of rubber around, trying to put a puck in the net. It doesn't mean a great deal. You're not curing cancer. At the end of the day, it's are you making a difference? He's making a difference."

When Spencer told his parents about his plan to establish "Captain's Care," they bought a pair of season's tickets to be distributed by the hospital.

Edwards concedes it's emotional and not always easy dealing with sick kids.

"But as much as it is difficult to see some of it, imagine how difficult it is to be going through those things. It's pretty heartbreaking to see some of the kids.

"But when they're so happy when you come to visit and you can give them a little hockey stick or a little team mascot, it's a pretty surreal feeling. No feeling like it."

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