TRURO, N.S. —
Julia Schmitt grew up living a truly Canadian dream: her hockey coach was her dad.
Nearly five years after Mike Schmitt passed away, Julia held on to her childhood dream by dropping a puck in his honour at the tournament bearing her father’s name. She did so in front of scores of people at Truro’s Colchester Legion Stadium on Dec, 27.
“Probably the most important thing he said was, I’m making you not a better hockey player, but a better person,” recalled Julia. “That still sticks with us today.”
Mike taught Julia how to play hockey in the family’s back yard and on the ice, starting pretty much from when Julia and her younger brothers Brody and Brayden could first walk.
He was a well-known and liked minor hockey coach in the Truro area, giving many hours to the sport. Off the ice, he was an operations manager for the Tim Hortons warehouse in Debert.
One person who knew Mike and his family well was Krista O’Dwyer. Her son looked up to Mike as a hockey role model, even though he was not his coach.
O’Dwyer remembered Mike as a “passionate coach,” who taught local hockey players many useful skills. She said the whole family bonded around hockey and were deeply knowledgeable about the sport.
Her favourite memory of Mike was being at his family home for parties, saying “he made really good drinks.”
“In the last few days before Mike’s passing, he actually was over at the [rink] watching his son Brody play a final game, before they took him to the hospital,” said O’Dwyer. “It was very moving.”
Mike passed away from pancreatic cancer on Jan. 10, 2015. Every year since then, Truro has hosted The Mike Schmitt Memorial Tournament, bringing together minor hockey pewee and atom and bantam teams from across the province.
“Everyone in the hockey community knew my dad, he was an amazing coach,” said Julia. “It was a major part of our lives and for it to live on in his legacy as a hockey tournament is just unbelievable.”
Mike’s legacy lives on in Julia’s own sporting career. She played hockey in both Debert and Truro, as well as in Windsor, Nova Scotia, when she attended private school there.
Presently, she is a student at St. Francis Xavier University and plays on its hockey team.
Julia practices on the ice every day and typically plays two games every weekend.
She plans on becoming a doctor and university will likely be the high point of Julia’s hockey career.
But when asked if she would pass on her love of hockey to any children she may have in future, Julia’s response was straight on-point.
“Definitely,” she said. “It’s such a big part of my family.”