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Hockey helps Port Moody teen bounce back from fire tragedy

Last December, the Port Moody home of 13-year-old Hailey Kress was heavily damaged by a fire, including her hockey equipment. Her team helped her get through the crisis.
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Hailey Kress was outfitted with all-new hockey equipment with the help of the Tri-City Predators female hockey association so she could keep playing after her family's Port Moody home was heavily damaged in a fire last December.

There may be no “i” in team, but a Port Moody teen is learning there’s a whole lot of support and love, especially when the chips are down.

Dec. 13, Hailey Kress and her family were displaced from their Glenayre home in the middle of the night by a fire that destroyed their garage and deck, heavily damaged an adjoining bedroom and inflicted lots of smoke and water on the rest of the structure including the basement.

That’s where Kress, 13, stored her hockey equipment.

Nobody — including the family dog — was hurt in the 3:15 a.m. blaze. But the emotional toll of that night has been especially difficult on Hailey, said her mom, Monica.

As the family moved in with relatives, then to an Airbnb, and finally to a rental home on the opposite side of Burrard Inlet, Hailey struggled in class at Banting middle school. She said she’d have panic attacks, feeling frozen and overwhelmed by the enormity of that night’s events and the impact it was having on her routines and sense of security.

“It was important to get back to normal,” said Monica. “We needed to somehow concentrate on something other than the fire, get her mind off the negative.”

Hockey was Hailey’s other.

The day after the fire, Monica received an email from Heather Fox, the president of the Tri-City Predators female hockey association where Hailey has been playing for three years, reassuring her that efforts were already in motion to ensure her daughter could keep playing.

Two weeks later, Hailey was back on the ice. All of her equipment was brand new, courtesy of The Hockey Shop, in Surrey. Her new Predators bag, socks, pants and even hockey tape were donated by Rocket Rod’s at Planet Ice in Coquitlam.

In a season that’s been all about disruption because of public health restrictions to temper transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Hailey said practising with her teammates made her feel normal, that everything was going to be OK.

“It was really fun to be with my friends again,” she said. “It made me forget about everything for an hour.”

Hailey, who’s also played baseball, jiu jitsu and acro-gymnastics, started playing hockey after a sleepover at a cousin’s house meant she also had to attend that cousin’s game the next day.

She said she liked what she saw.

“It looked super fun,” she said, adding she especially enjoyed hockey’s aggressive nature.

Monica said she was initially taken aback when Hailey expressed an interest in playing hockey herself. But the positive benefits of being part of a team and forming new relationships outweighed the downsides of the sport’s expense and sitting on cold arena benches.

“It makes for a really well-rounded kid,” she said.

Hailey said she enjoys the challenge and responsibility of playing defence, including learning how to skate backwards. But she most values the camaraderie of her teammates and coaches.

“It’s like always having people around you who care about you,” Hailey said.

That care was delivered even before Hailey returned to the ice, as her teammates put together a package for her family of food and personal items like blankets and skin care products.

Monica Kress said she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Hailey’s team and the Predators’ hockey community.

“You always think you pay a lot of money for these sports, you think you’re just a number to them,” she said. “But it’s such a good group of kids and parents.”

Hailey said the experience has given her an appreciation for the importance of having sport and teammates in her life. It’s also made her more determined to keep getting better at her game.

“Everything that they’ve done makes me want to try harder to show I’m grateful.”

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