August 3, 2009


William and Emma Acres attend their first ever hockey game in Haparanda, Sweden, Nov, 22, 2009.









Parksville-Qualicum News

August 3, 2009

Family calls yet hockey camp presses on

In what looks to be a sports twist to that old saying it takes a community to raise a child, some local coaches and trainers have stepped forward to keep Henry Acres’ hockey school in session this summer.

The man for which the school is named had to fly back to Sweden to be with his wife and newborn twins, William Henry and Emma Carolina.

“We have been on a roller coaster of emotions here, as Christina (Mrs. Acres) gave birth to twins prematurely in Sweden just as Henry arrived in Canada for the start of his camps (two weeks ago),” Henry’s mom, Betty Ann, first told The News. “So he turned around and went back to Sweden. The health of the babies is delicate, and they will be in hospital for several months ... what a trying situation.”

When word got out about the Ballenas grad’s situation, friends and fellow coaches responded. Oceanside Generals’ head coach Dave Johnson is acting as Henry’s stand-in on the ice for the long-running camp. Dave and the two other lead instructors (former Canucks’ draft pick Todd Norman from Ontario, and Bill Ruggerio from Michigan) are taking direction from Henry in Sweden. Henry has e-mailed his entire program directions in the last couple of days.

Overseeing the always intense dry-land sessions at a searing hot Oceanside Middle School this week — designed to prepare hockey players of all ages for the rigors of the upcoming season by way of grueling drills — are local trainers Dayna Harstad and Kevin Spicer.

The happy campers spend two hours at OMS then take to the ice at Oceanside Place for another 90 minutes of drills. Suffice it to say that when The News stopped by there were a lot of sweaty young hockey players.

“I know it’s hot out, but dig deep you guys, this can make you stronger,” Harstad, mother of two and former Canadian National Taekwondo welterweight sparring champion turned personal trainer yelled out in encouragement to the young charges.

A fixture in these parts for the past seven summers and counting, Acres Hockey Camp was started by Henry, who goes by the handle Hank, and who has played professionally in Europe for years — he spent last season coaching and playing in Finland.

Since tying the knot three years back to his favorite Swedish bank teller, he has expanded his Acres Hockey to Finland, and is in the process of taking it to Alberta, Sweden and Norway. Acres Hockey offers three summer camps here in Parksville — Foundation for 8-11 year olds; Steps for 12-14 year olds, and Elite for 15+ — and attracts players from all over Canada, the U.S. and as far away as Europe. Many grandparents who live on the Island sponsor their grandchildren to come from afar.

As for the wee-ones, “the babies are doing well considering William had to undergo surgery to correct a serious infection in the intestines,” said grandma Betty Ann. “Baby Emma has not had such a dramatic (first few) weeks of life.”

Last week their parents were separated by 600 miles-plus as dad and William were airlifted to another city for his surgery.

Contacted in Sweden via e-mail, the 34-year-old first time father said, “today things are fine.”

“Christina has been in Uppsala (just outside Stockholm) with William and I since Friday. We had hoped to be all together by today down here. Hospitals have changed that plan and Christina will fly back to Emma in Umea — about 700 kms north of here — tomorrow, and if all is well with William over the next two days, we should be heading north also, hopefully this week.”

In other news, both twins weighed in at just over two pounds he said, adding he has only spent three days with Emma and has been with William the last two weeks.

“Let me tell you, when I got that phone call at 6 a.m. the morning after arriving in Vancouver at 10 p.m. from Sweden saying Christina’s water had broke: disbelief isn’t a strong enough word.

“Very tired,” Hank replied when asked how it’s going, “as there is no way to be mentally prepared for what is coming next, other than to just roll with it, as about the only thing I have any control over is the TV remote these days.”

On the subject of his Parksville camps, “I am so happy that so many people have come forward and offered assistance to help with the running of the camp this year, and it makes me very proud of the Oceanside community ... the camps are in really good hands,” he said.

As for the most important issue right now, though, “the kids are fighters and strong like their parents, so we have much hope, and each day things seem to get a little better. They definitely get stronger each day, so that is how we are living right now, day by day.

“I am a big believer in that everything happens for a reason, and it is how it is supposed to be, so this is the way this year was supposed to go,”  he wrote, adding, “I had to let go a little bit of the camp-reigns for my family.”

***The Acres family spent close to 4 months in various hopsitals around Sweden before being able to bring William and Emma home. Huge thanks for all the support and well wishes we recieved from throughout the hockey community. The whole family looks forward to being at AHT-Parksville in 2010.***