Adonay Takeia had never gone skating before.
The 10-year-old Winnipegger, originally from Eritrea, was sitting in the locker room at Camp Manitou Saturday afternoon, sliding his feet into a pair of skates and strapping a helmet onto his head for the very first time.
For what Adonay lacked in experience, he more than made up for in confidence.
"I have never played hockey," he said. "I think it will be easy."
Adonay waddled across the floor and made his way outside, where his prestigious teacher, the Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey, was waiting.
Morrissey was at Camp Manitou — a camp the Jets supports through its True North Youth Foundation — for a Welcome to Winnipeg event to skate alongside Adonay and about 40 residents of the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, including newcomers from countries such as Cameroon and Syria. Many of them were in the same skates as Adonay — they were newcomers to the ice, too.
Morrissey, 24, had a very different introduction to skating. Growing up in Calgary, his parents built a backyard rink for him and his brother. His mom would sprawl across the crease to stop his shots back when they weren’t zooming at 90 miles per hour.
"I didn’t have the chance to do it with Jarome Iginla," he said, referring to the former Flames captain and likely Hall-of-Famer.
He remembers those days, spent playing until dark, as if he had. "I think just being able to skate outside always felt like such a pure form of playing the game," he said.
"I did so much dreaming out there as a kid, of playing in the NHL or scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal. There’s no referees, there’s no scoreboard or clock or anything like that," he said, grinning. "You just kind of play, and have fun with your friends. To me, that’s what hockey is all about."
As kids and parents trepidatiously touched their blades to the rink, their eyes lit up: some were scared, others enthralled. They were discovering their ability to do something new.
Sandi Azab had already made that discovery. She and her family came to Winnipeg eight months ago and before Saturday, she’d already gone skating: at first she was nervous, but at Camp Manitou, she was determined to make some serious progress.
"I want to learn everything," said the 11-year-old.
She stepped onto the ice in a pink and black jacket, curling her mittens around the red metal skate training bar. Nearby, her brother Waeil was striding along.
At the end of the ice, with no goalie on site, Morrissey stepped between the pipes. A pair of boys who’d recently come to Canada from Cameroon and Eritrea began flipping pucks toward the net, and Morrissey did his best to make a few kick saves.
One boy wound up, looking to release a vicious slapshot, but missed the puck completely and fell onto his back. He sat up laughing, with a Jet smiling back.
Near centre ice, Adonay was taking a few strides when he, too, wiped out — a rite of passage.
He sat for a second or two before getting back up to go again. Maybe it wasn’t easy, but it certainly was fun.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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Updated on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST: Edited, add photos.