Since winning the World Cup hockey gold medal 62 years ago, Ivan McLelland has been no stranger when it comes to talking with kids.
But these days it’s less about his accomplishments.
His format instead focuses on his young audiences and what lies ahead for them and how they can achieve their goals
I have a piece I call, It could happen to you,” said McLelland, who was one of the feature characters in the Salvation Army’s 150 Summer Youth Program play after he had spent time talking to the youngsters one day.
“The thrust of it is, live your dreams by all means, don’t let people tell you you can’t do something. I had this happen to me as a kid, so if I can influence one kid to do something they were doubtful about then it’s been a great evening. I truly enjoy doing it.”
He relates to his audience about being “unceremoniously” cut from the Vancouver Canucks in 1950 and being told by a team official he “didn’t have what it takes” to be a winner.
“And one little girl says ‘what did you do sir?’ and I said I just ignored him and got the bus. I came all the way to Penticton and I just booked into a hotel, tried my best,” said McLelland. “And you know what happened? By golly, I made the team and then you know what else happened? Five years later I was standing on the blue line in Germany, thousands of miles away, having a gold medal put around my neck. After the game the Montreal Canadiens came to me and and asked me to try out. But if I listened to that man who was having a bad day I would have just quit.”
The Salvation Army also has a special place in McLelland’s heart, which was another reason he was so anxious to be a part of the program.
“I was the eldest of 15 children and come Christmas, in our little home in South Porcupine, Ont., if it had not been for the Salvation Army guys coming with a sack full of gifts late at night and a turkey we would have never had it,” he said. “It was the Salvation Army that gave us Christmas every year, so if I can give back a little I’m happy to do it.”