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Every Child Matters                                                                                                                     By Adam Donnelly

Kamloops hockey club dons special orange sweaters in honour of Tk’emlups residential school confirmation

Jan 31, 2022 | 4:08 PM


KAMLOOPS — Last May, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced the findings of a ground-penetrating radar search of the grounds of the former residential school. 

The confirmation of the possible remains of more than 215 children sent shockwaves across Canada and around the world and has spurred the search and confirmation of thousands more possible remains at sites across North America. 

That news also encouraged many to take a hard look at the colonial history of Canada, and ask what they can do to help move the process of reconciliation along.

On Saturday (Jan. 29), CFJC Today was in Sun Peaks where a local group of young-at-heart hockey players unveiled some special jerseys to commemorate those kids who didn’t come home from those schools while working to keep the conversation moving.

The Free Radicals Hockey Club has been around for a couple of decades now. 

“It’s a group of like-minded guys that decided they didn’t want to play in the regular leagues anymore. We’re a Monday-to-Thursday, sticks in the middle group,” Kevin Orton, long-time Free Radical explains. 

When Len Jackson joined four seasons ago, he quickly realized that the Free Radicals were about more than just playing hockey.

“I think most people in Kamloops wouldn’t realize the amount of goodwill that this group of guys puts into the community,” Jackson says. “Into minor hockey, into charities around Christmastime. It’s a really good group of guys.”

On Saturday, the group of around 30 young-at-heart players met at the Sun Peaks Rink for its first-ever Outdoor Winter Classic event. And when they hit the ice, they did so in a special set of jerseys they plan to wear to tournaments — once that’s allowed — inspired by the tragic confirmation by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc last May.

“Our first reaction was we need to do something,” Orton says. “We sought council. We talked to Len and a few others.”

“My answer to them was, ‘I appreciate you want to do something, but you don’t have to rush to a decision. Think about it,’” Jackson explains. “As time went on and as we thought about it, the guys wanted to ensure the conversation didn’t go dead.”

“We want this to be a conversation piece,” Orton says of the jerseys. “We want to go out there, we want to let people know that we’re thinking about it and maybe they should be thinking about it so that it doesn’t go away.”

This weekend’s Winter Classic was a chance for the Free Radicals to unveil the new uniforms — dubbed their Every Child Matters jerseys — but it was more than that. They opened the event in a good way, with drumming and singing by the Big Sorrel Horse family from Tk’emlups. 

“We’ve got a group of guys that, when we get an idea, we tend to go a little bit over the top. It’s kind of what we do,” Orton says with a smile. “This was a great way to introduce these jerseys, just to bring it home that this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re all about. To a man, everyone here is on board with what we’re doing, and it’s a ton of fun. We enjoy playing hockey, too, but we like to get things done while we’re at it.”

Between the setting and subject matter, Jackson says he’s proud of the group and pleased with how the jerseys turned out.

“It’s a great concept to bring the game back outdoors and to show off the uniforms for the first time.”

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