From Hamilton to the Northwest Territories, Lynda Thompson spreading her teaching expertise across the miles

If history is any indication, Lynda Thompson could very well be witnessing the next monumental Canadian sporting moment from a hotel room.

Much like that October Saturday night 22 years ago, when the highly-regarded skating coach watched the Toronto Blue Jays capture their first World Series championship from the cozy confines of the Sheraton in downtown Hamilton, Ontario.

Or four years ago, as Vancouver took a bow before the world during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Thompson looked on from her hotel in Inuvik, where she had ventured to lend her vast coaching expertise.

“That is how I relate to those two events,” Thompson laughs, referring to the World Series and Vancouver Games.

“I know when it was, because of where I was when it happened. I’ll never forget either of those nights.”

This week, just six years after being bestowed with Skate Canada’s Best of the Best Award for CanSkate delivery, Thompson, from the Hamilton Skating Club, will be honoured with the Skate Canada Club and Recreational Coach Award of Excellence during the organization’s ACGM and National Coaches’ Conference in historic Quebec City, Que.

“It’s extremely humbling, and it’s been very emotional for me since I heard the news,” Thompson admits. “It really means a lot to me. I can’t even really talk about it without getting choked up.”

It’s been an often alluring, always rewarding journey for Thompson, who began skating at the Richmond Hill Arena as a youngster and later went on to spend two years with the Ice Capades in the mid-1970s. Half a decade later, she began teaching in Richmond Hill and, when her husband accepted a job transfer to Hamilton, she began teaching at the Dofasco Skating Club in Steeltown.

Not long after her arrival in Hamilton, she met Ron Shaver, who convinced Thompson to come teach part time at the Hamilton Skating Club. After splitting her time between the two clubs for a few years, Thompson made the jump to Hamilton full-time.

She’s been there ever since.

Of all the memories she carries close to her heart, one that stands out is the unique relationship formed with each and every skater under her tutelage.

“You know the impact you have had on each and every skater is truly special,” she says. “And they’ve had the same impact on me. You’ve been part of their life, they’ve been part of yours, and that will never change. There will always be that connection.”

For Thompson, those relationships are personal.

“Ages three, four or five, it’s because mom and dad want them to skate. After six or eight weeks, it becomes almost magical. You see the kids standing up on the ice and taking those first strides, and you see the parents smiling. You get tears in your eyes watching those parents.

“At the other end, you have the adults, and they’ve never skated in their lives. Maybe they just want to skate with the family on the canal in Ottawa, and they come to us to help get them there.

“Whether they are 3 or 53, everyone is there for the same reason. No matter the age, they just want to skate.”

In the fall of 2009, Thompson broadened her coaching horizons by making the long trip to the Northwest Territories when a temporary opportunity became available.

Thompson says that initial two-month experience changed her life. Weeks later, she returned to the Northwest Territories and watched the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony with two of her students – Kathleen and Megan – from an Inuvik hotel room.

“It gave me more than I ever thought it would,” Thompson admits.  “Helping others out was very rewarding. It was a total life experience.”

She has remained loyal to her Hamilton coaching roots, but still makes the annual trip to the Northwest Territories to teach.

“I still like going to those communities, to share my experiences in places that don’t necessarily have a lot of teaching resources. Those kids have the same love of skating as anyone else.”

With the dawning of the new CanSkate curriculum on the horizon later this summer, Thompson says Hamilton, one of the pilot clubs for the project, is raring to go, adding it won’t take long for other clubs across the country to hop on that bandwagon.

“The new CanSkate is going to be tremendous for our clubs and coaches, coast to coast,” she says. “We always want to make our programs better, always want more, and this is going to do that.

“This is the gold seal, and it is going to be even better. We’re on a good path.”

“This will be game-changing.”

Something Lynda Thompson knows a thing or two about.

Marty Henwood

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