(Article written by Jamie Neugebauer)
If the players are at the heart of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, people like Yorkton’s Pat Holtkamp are the lungs.
The league simply cannot function without her and those like her, who care deeply about the game and the young men who come from far and wide to play it.
Holtkamp is the Terriers’ Vice President and Billet Co-ordinator and has been involved with the beloved eastern Saskatchewan club since 2010.
“I just see the value in community service,” she says about why she got into helping out with the Terriers’ in the first place.
“I think it’s important for any of our players that we in the Terriers’ organization send them the message that what they are doing is important and that they are supported. These boys mean a lot to the Yorkton community, and the support we get from the community through fundraising and participation in our events shows that the people of this area feel the same way.”
Holtkamp, originally from Bredenbury around 45 kilometres southeast of Yorkton, is a retired school administrator. She felt the call to billet hockey players when in the mid-2000s her daughter went away to the Alberta Ballet, and she felt the difficulty of finding her a good place to live. Ultimately Pat and her husband did find someone, and the gratitude she felt towards those people developed in her the need to “pay it forward”, as she says.
In 2008, the Holtkamps welcomed Yorkton Harvest U18 AAA forward Brenden Poncelet into their home. When he moved up to the Terriers for the 2010-11 campaign, they kept him around, and he did not leave until after the 2013 SJHL championship-winning season.
Today, he is married to Holtkamp’s daughter Haley, though Pat assures the league they did not start dating until after he had left the house.
The joy from the memories of having Brenden, as well as all nine Terriers’ billets she and her husband have had around, come through clearly from her.
“We have made connections for life,” she says.
“I am in contact with every one of our billets and their families and those are connections that we’ve made for life. We’ve had billets come back and visit, been invited to weddings, and are all truly part of our family forever. When any of my billets have asked me what the rules were in the house, I always tell him that ‘I’m going to treat you like my own, but I expect you to behave like my own’, and honestly, we just haven’t had a problem with any them. I tell their parents that we know that when you have your child away from home, you want to make sure that they’re happy and safe and well cared for, and we want to make sure that is how these boys feel when they come here.”
Holtkamp’s parents were originally from Foxwarren, Manitoba, and one of her cousins, Ron Low, was a goaltender who played just under 400 games in the National Hockey League.
The love of hockey runs deep in her blood, and while the thought of stepping away from the Terriers in an official capacity occasionally passes through her mind, that move also seems a hard one for her to imagine.
“It’s difficult because you know I have that emotional attachment to the club and the people,” she says.
“I’m very passionate about hockey, I come from a hockey family, and I am passionate about our organization so as I said when I think about the kids involved, and the parents involved, and we have those connections as a family, I think it will be a very difficult choice and decision to walk away.”
Pat notes that she wants the Yorkton Terriers name to be synonymous with the pride the club has for the community; and that the players are known to be good mentors, show leadership and be respectful wherever they go.
She is also proud of the community’s penchant for giving back to the club, with one recent notable example being that as there are no team or billet fees levied on the players, numerous groups of people and organizations in the area, and parents of players, have stepped up to help pay the hefty sums needed to feed the Terriers on the road.
“So many people around here are very hard working,” she says, “and because we have that many people around helping out is a huge help to our organization.
“Everyone who comes and helps the Terriers run is a key player for the team, and we’re all out here working for the same goal.”
Holtkamp is not only an example of passion and hard work but of perseverance.
As a woman in a male-dominated hockey managerial landscape, she feels that her voice has grown to be respected throughout her time with the club as, perhaps unfairly, she has had to prove herself as a valuable member of the board and organization.
“When I first joined, I didn’t really feel that my opinions were heard or mattered all that much,” she says, “but I really feel that has changed.
“I raised three girls to believe that they could do or be anything that they wanted, regardless of gender, and so I hope that that message has been instilled in them as well. Definitely, it’s a male-dominated world, but I feel my opinion matters and counts. I feel that I make my opinion count and matter, and I feel that I’m respected within the organization and in the community because of that.”
A passionate hockey and Terriers fan, and inspiration to us all, she is a valued member of the Yorkton board led by Corvyn Neufeld, and at the same time continues to billet for the club as she has taken in Alberta-born forward Colton Koran, who is in his third year with the club.
If you are interested in the possibility of becoming a Yorkton Terrier billet family and want more information please contact Pat Holtkamp at (306) 621 – 7525.