Twenty-eight-year-old Jade Kersey is the new executive director of the Vail Junior Hockey Association. Born in British Columbia, Kersey learned to skate at an early age and began playing hockey at age 5. He played triple A and junior A hockey in Canada, then earned a scholarship to play at Brown University in Massachusetts, where he earned an undergraduate degree in organizational management. After playing minor league hockey in the Western Professional League, Kersey coached the Division I Sacred Heart team in Connecticut while simultaneously earning a masters in education. He moved to Vail in August.Q: How did you first get involved in hockey?A: Actually, I started skating when I was 16 months old basically as soon as I started walking. I was one of those stubborn kids, and the first time I went my mom helped me and the second time I said, “Don’t touch me.” I was in figure skating until I was about four, and when I saw what the hockey players were doing I immediately thought that what they were doing was way cooler than what I was doing. Things progressed from there.Q: Now you’ve landed here. How do you like Vail so far?A: Well, to tell you the truth, I haven’t had time to enjoy it much yet, but I really like the area. I’m originally from mountains, and it’ll be good to get involved in skiing, kayaking, the outdoors and all that Vail has to offer.Q: Have you noticed anything unique about the Vail community?A: The people here are in incredible shape. That’s the first thing that I noticed. Here I am, pretty young, and I’m thinking, “Jeez, I feel out of shape up here.” All the parents are coming in after working out, climbing, running and hiking, and it’s a very outdoor society up here. It’s something that I’m excited to be a part of. Connecticut was more urban, but here there’s more of a country style and people who are physically active.Q: What are some of your goals for the Vail Junior Hockey Association?A: I want to create an environment where kids can learn to love hockey. I don’t want it to be a gender-biased sport, and I want to facilitate the diversification of the sport. Hockey has always been thought of as a white, Anglo, male sport, and I don’t want to exclude anybody. The other challenge is educating the community about the sport, and recruiting quality individuals who are in it for the right reasons, and giving them the resources and experience they need in order to relay that information to the kids.Q: You’ve always been interested in hockey. Have you always been interested in coaching?A: Yes, it’s always been something that I really wanted to do. When I was offered the Sacred Heart job, I was in Toronto, working a good job there. But I talked to parents and friends and they all said the same thing: this is what you’ve always wanted to do, why don’t you go for it?Q: What is it about coaching that you like?A: My friends always ask me why I don’t try and coach professional hockey. But, when you coach pro athletes you’re involved in the maintenance stage. For me it’s more about the development stage. I think of myself as an educator on the ice. I like to bring out different elements of the sport, break it down in different ways that a young player can get a hold of.Q: What can hockey do for a young person?A: Well, one thing is that only one out of every 6,000 players ever plays even one game in the NHL. So I’m saying let’s enjoy our experience while we’re here, and prepare for life after hockey. If you have a good support network, hockey can provide you with so much. You can develop good friends all my good friends play hockey and the great thing about hockey players is that you can walk into a locker room and you’re instantly accepted because you’re a hockey player. It’s an amazing comfort zone. Hockey taught me about sacrifice and being part of a team, learning to adjust to people, and it helped me become more well-rounded and accepting.Q: Are there any NHL hockey players you think make great role models for kids?A: Joe Sakic and Steve Izerman, to me, are two of the greatest players on the planet and incredible human beings. They get it done when it counts. There are others, as well; I could go on and on.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.