The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has selected 14 players to receive $500 bursaries.
The recipients earned their bursaries based on academic achievement, sportsmanship, hockey participation and or quality of contribution as well as community participation and service.
The league is announcing the winners during the month of June by division, beginning with the Bill Ohlhausen Division in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference.
Mattila, the co-captain of the Kelowna Chiefs, graduated from Prince George Secondary School in 2017. He has made Kelowna his home while playing for the Chiefs for three seasons. Mattila has many great memories from his junior career, but says he’s thankful for the support from late Chiefs owner Grant Sheridan, and team president Jason Tansem with his mental health initiatives. Mattila founded MindRight for Athletes Society.
“The Kelowna Chiefs were the first team in the KIJHL to support the MindRight initiative and glad that other teams are on board as well,” he said.
Mattila said the KIJHL does a great job developing hockey players and excelling them to the higher levels. He’s thankful for what he gained in a different perspective.
“I am personally very thankful to build my communication and leadership skills that will benefit me in the business community,” said Mattila, who completed his third year of a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Okanagan College with a diploma in marketing.
Mattila is pursuing a masters in business administration. His career aspirations include finding an organization to work with around community involvement as he loves interacting with the community and networking with new individuals to make a difference. He dedicated time to Ride Don’t Hide to raise awareness about mental health in Kelowna, has spoken at schools and various KIJHL communities.
It’s his goal to continue working on mental health initiatives and supporting the Grant Sheridan Scholarship.
Christensen, from Airdrie, Alta., only planned to play one season with the Kelowna Chiefs then shift his focus on education. After three seasons, Christensen describes his time as “very unique” making best friends. Those friends and ownership helped him through challenging times, including making a tribute for a friend who died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
“I’ll be forever grateful for the memories everyone in my three seasons helped make,” said the WH Croxford High grad. “I experienced many great situations that not a lot of people are exposed to at such a young age, and if not for these learning experiences, I would not have the same outlook on life that I have now.”
Christensen volunteered with the Lioness Hamper Program in Airdrie and organized a grad class fundraiser to donate to the Airdrie Food Bank. Christensen has been working towards an associate science degree at Okanagan College and is now transferring to UBC-Okanagan to further his degree and study human kinetics. That will allow him to apply for chiropractic college in Portland, Ore.
“I have been inspired by so many great physicians, and chiropractors in my life that have helped me become pain free while playing the sport I love,” he said. “I have looked up to them and their ability to help others, which is why I have decided to further my education and become a chiropractor. I would love to finish schooling and start helping young athletes train better and move better because I was also given that opportunity when I was young.”
Olsen, from Calgary, Alta., described his three seasons with the North Okanagan Knights as “an extreme learning experience.”
Each season had its share of challenges, which included constant battles to make the playoffs. Through everything the players experienced, they were able to build strong relationships and persevere through each obstacle.
“Playing hockey with the North Okanagan Knights was a blast and I am extremely grateful to have had the experience,” said Olsen.
As a player, he learned to adapt and faced new challenges each day.
“I was taught that nothing comes easy and you have to work for everything you get,” he said. “I learned how to problem solve, whether that was in the game or amongst my teammates. My leadership skills have also developed greatly from being assistant captain, which will benefit me going into post-secondary.”
Olsen plans to earn a bachelors of business administration and is enrolled at Okanagan College in Vernon.
“I would like to take the knowledge I get from a business degree and bring it back into hockey,” said Olsen, a graduate of Bishop O’Byrne High School. “I see myself involved with the KIJHL or a different league in the future, whether it be managing or coaching. My long term career aspiration is to own a sporting goods store.”
“The KIJHL is very proud of our bursary program and the opportunity to support 14 of our student-athletes as they take the next steps in their academic careers. This season’s applications, both in quality and quantity, made the selection process extremely difficult,” said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois.
“This has been a tough few months for everybody as we’ve dealt with COVID-19, and it was a nice change of pace to read through the applications we received and see the great work our players have been doing in the classroom and in their communities. As a league we’re thrilled to be able to recognize and reward those contributions.”
Banser, from West Kelowna, has spent the past two seasons with the Summerland Steam. As a rookie, he was named the most sportsmanlike player.
“Being a part of the Summerland Steam for the past two seasons has been an unforgettable experience,” said Banser. “I am incredibly grateful for the coaching staff and players who created a supportive environment where I was able to navigate my studies while continuing my love for the sport. My two seasons have left me with many lifetime friendships and memories.”
Banser was a straight A student, who also attended UBC-O full time while playing. Banser is studying to earn a bachelor of Human Kinetics. Being involved with sports, especially hockey, led to his choice of studies. He would like to work with athletes in the future.
“Throughout my hockey career I have experienced many injuries that required the support of physicians and physiotherapists,” he said. “Their support and knowledge has allowed me to continue playing hockey at my fullest potential for 14 years. These experiences have filled me with a desire to give back to the sport that has done so much for me. My goal is to become a sports medicine physician so I can help aid athletes in their recoveries from sports related injuries and help them return to the sport they love as quickly as possible.”
With the Steam, he was involved in events which included interacting with the public at the Summerland Light Up, Tim Hortons Smile Cookie campaign, community skates, the Terry Fox run and school visits.
Banser impressed his coach Ken Karpuk with his playing ability and dedication to his education.
Banser says his experience in the league helped shape the person he is now.
“Being surrounded by a group of dedicated athletes who constantly push each other towards reaching their goals has taught me to give my all at everything I do and stay devoted to my goals,” he says. “This has allowed me to develop my leadership skills by rising up and pushing my peers to persevere through hardships that come with the sport and consistently giving 110 per cent in both sport and life.”
The league’s next announcement will highlight recipients from the Doug Birks Division.
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