When Joey Lies went from being a Flin Flon schoolkid to being a Flin Flon Bomber, he wanted to help his hometown. That commitment has earned him an honour from the SJHL and a donation for the school where he works.
Lies was announced last month as one of the SJHL’s RBC community ambassadors. The born-and-raised Flin Flonner, now in his second year as a Bomber, was told before Christmas that team coaches Mike Reagan and Cole McCaig nominated him for the position. Every year, the SJHL and RBC nominate 12 players, one from each team, as community ambassadors, recognizing each during a home game during the second half of the season. Each player receives a donation from RBC to a school in their community, with one of the 12 players bringing in a second additional donation each year to the school.
“I was honoured,” Lies said. Last year’s Bomber nominee was forward Cole Duperreault, a player Lies played with and was able to learn from, on and off the ice.
“Cole Duperreault won the award last year and playing with him and being around him, knowing him on and off the ice, it’s an honour to kind of be in that category,” he said.
Lies works with Grade 5 students at Ruth Betts Community School as a mentor, like many Bomber players before him - the team has had a program where players work in local classrooms for decades. At the school, the same one he attended as a kid, Lies does one-on-one sessions with the students, takes part in student programs and helps out during classes. It’s not something he does for attention, he says - it’s something he does because he knows how much it means.
“It’s just about little things - like, me and a few teammates went to the [Flin Flon Aboriginal] Friendship Centre the other day and just played mini-sticks with the kids for an hour. It’s things like that, being recognized as a person who does that often… it’s something I like to do, because I remember being one of those kids,” he said.
“Having a Bomber player show up for something, like a gym night or something like that, playing games with the kids, it was pretty special, pretty cool. It’s nice to now see that from the other perspective.”
Lies also referees in his spare time for adult recreational and minor hockey - mere hours after arriving home from a recent road trip to Melfort, Lies was on the ice to officiate the tournament’s final games. Lies also helps out with his family’s annual Christmas Eve meal, where he and other family members put together food free of charge for people who might otherwise not have a hot holiday meal.
It’s the work Lies does within the schools that has garnered attention for the award. When Lies came back home to play last season, he knew being involved in schools was important and something he needed to pay forward. He remembers ex-Bombers like Alex Smith and Joel Kocur working in local schools and aspiring to be like them - now, he’s taking on a similar role within the same halls.
“It was very important to me. I know my role on the ice, but off the ice is where I really wanted to make an impact. I really wanted to stand out in the community and do as much as I could, it being my hometown. I love this place. I grew up here. I try to make an impact, as much of an impact as I can off the ice,” he said.
“The kids, I feel like we’re just having so much fun with them. I remember I had a Bomber buddy when I was a kid and I was so stoked to see him every day. Seeing those kids react each day when I come in the room and they’re excited to play cards with me or they ask me for help during math, it’s fun from the other side.”
While the honour is nice to receive, Lies says he doesn’t do the work for recognition. He does it because he knows the value of the work firsthand.
“I don’t think a guy can ever do too much or not enough or whatever in the community, but at the same time, I’m just going to keep doing this. It’s never a complaint. I’m never going to complain about it. It’s stuff I like to do,” he said.
“Whether it’s playing around with the kids or going to the personal care home and talking with the elders there, it’s just me being me, I guess. I wouldn’t say I’m going out of my way to do it - it’s just me being me.”
Lies will be officially recognized by the league and sponsors as the team’s community ambassador Feb. 16, when the Bombers host the Battlefords North Stars.