In Midst of a Pandemic, Father and Son Find Joy and Healing on the ODR

It's been a difficult year for everyone. And it's been especially difficult for Jamie Henderson and his wife. But if you're looking for something to feel good about, Jamie Henderson captured it in a 39-second video.
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PHOTO-2021-02-03-13-12-43

We dare you, in fact we double-dog dare you, to watch a 39-second video a father in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., recently released of his three-year-old son shrieking with joy as he’s skating on his backyard rink and feel anything other than unadulterated joy. It’s impossible, really. When it comes down to it, we could all probably use a little bit of Brady Henderson in our lives right now.

If you’ve never been to the Canadian side of the Soo, it’s the kind of place that endures 10 months of winter and two months of bad skating. (Or road construction. Or black flies as big as your head. Take your pick.) It’s also a place that can get to be a bit of a grind at this time of year. Couple that with a raging pandemic that has kept almost everyone from doing the things they love the most and you get the picture. But Jamie Henderson, a teaching golf pro in the summer and the coach of the Soo Greyhounds U-18 AAA team in the winter, has found a respite from all that with his backyard rink and his son’s love for hockey.

(I gather they’re calling places like this ODRs now, which stands for outdoor rink. Growing up in nearby Sudbury, we just called it the rink. But anyway…)

Sunday afternoon gave Jamie and Brady one of those glorious northern Ontario days of frigid weather combined with blinding sunshine. So the two of them went out to the rink and Jamie decided to take some video. And it’s wonderful. The first thing that catches your attention is how well Brady skates for a three-year-old. Then it’s the unbridled shrieks of joy that melt your heart. I’m sure that if we could all experience that kind of innocent exuberance once or twice a week, we’d all get through this pandemic in much better shape.

“He loves being chased,” Jamie said of his son. “It makes him go faster. It just so happened that I had the phone rolling and I was chasing him and I was like, ‘Oh, this is gold.’ ”

Jamie posted the video of Brady skating and shooting pucks in the Mark Scheifele sweater his aunt gave him for Christmas, to his Twitter account (@JHendo9), which was picked up by Hockey Night in Canada. Since then, Jamie Henderson has had a deluge of correspondence with people with whom the video struck a chord. Seeing a video like that would be a joy at any time, but somehow viewing it when most kids in Canada can’t play organized hockey and everyone is facing unique challenges makes it even more touching. Jamie can relate. His U-18 team has played only a couple of non-contact, no-faceoff games against the U-18 team in Sudbury before being shut down completely at Christmas. And it has provided something of a comfort for Jamie and his wife, Maggie Gareau, who were faced with their own real-life tragedy last March, just as the pandemic hit.

Brady

“A lot of people are going through a really tough time right now,” Jamie said. “And we’ve had a tough year. We lost a son in a pregnancy and it’s been really difficult. We had to terminate the pregnancy. He had some severe brain abnormalities and he wasn’t going to be able to survive. I watch him on the rink and I can’t help but think that Brady had a brother. His name was Charlie. It’s really tough sometimes.”

Having a son that shares his love for the game helps. When Jamie was buying a house five years ago, he and his wife would only consider homes that had backyards big enough to accommodate a rink. Brady started moving around on skates last year, then would go with his father as Jamie conducted off-season skates for NHL and Ontario League players who spend their off-seasons in the area, including Bryan Rust, Colin Miller and Mike Amadio. When Jamie is coaching the U-18 team, his son helps put out the sweaters in the dressing room and arrange the tape on the bench.

We know what some of you are thinking. Don’t think it. Because right now Brady Henderson is just a three-year-old kid who loves hockey. Jamie noticed one response to the video that predicted his son is going places. “I felt like writing back and saying, ‘Yeah, he’s going to daycare and next year he’ll be going to Kindergarten,’ ” Jamie said. “He goes out there two or three times a day. Sometimes we’re out there for 10 minutes and sometimes we’re out there for two hours. It’s up to him.”

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