Hay River’s Gavin Broadhead has won a prestigious competition – talent identification testing, actually – that may start him on the way to a brand-new athletic career.
The former junior hockey player won the Alberta regional section of RBC Training Ground, which is a Canada-wide program designed to discover athletes with potential that might lead to the Olympics.
As a result of his win, Broadhead has already attracted interest as a potential long-track speed skater, and will be attending a four-day training camp in Calgary in July.
“For me, it just means an opportunity to try something new and have access to the best coaching and the best facilities to, I guess, see if it’s something I might be capable of doing,” Broadhead said of RBC Training Ground in a telephone interview with The Hub. “I really won’t know until we get more testing done, but I certainly like the athlete lifestyle.”
After finishing playing hockey, he took a couple of years off from competitive sports and then started competing in CrossFit, and this year switched to track and field.
In fact, he found out about RBC Training Ground from another member of the track team at the University of Lethbridge. That was Sarah Orban, the winner of the Alberta section of RBC Training Ground in 2017, who is now training in track cycling.
Broadhead downplayed any talk of the Olympics, although he admitted that sounds like a really sweet idea in the back of his mind.
“But it would be really reckless to say that, ‘Yeah, I’m going to the Olympics,'” he said. “All I did so far was win fitness testing.”
The 23-year-old claimed the Alberta title for RBC Training Ground in Calgary on April 21.
That athletic testing – which attracted at least 100 competitors from Alberta and Saskatchewan – involved such things as a 40-meter sprint, standing long jump, standing triple jump, upright bench press and a leg press.
Broadhead said he did really well in a six-second bike test, which records how much acceleration power a person can produce.
And he also did well in an endurance test on a bike.
“I know that I’ve been training very hard for a long time. So I had expectations to do well and have a chance at winning, but there are a lot of other really good athletes,” he said. “There were some people that put up really good scores in a lot of the testing, but I was able to do well all the way across the board. I didn’t have any bad scores.”
Broadhead has just finished his third year of studies for a kinesiology degree at the University of Lethbridge.
When he was just 14 years old and in Grade 9, he left Hay River to attend a hockey academy in Kelowna, B.C.
That led to a junior hockey career with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League that ended in 2014.
“I’m basically open to try anything that’s not a contact sport, because the reason I had to quit hockey was I had too many concussions,” he explained. “I had a number of concussions playing junior hockey, so I decided to quit playing hockey and just go to school while my brain was still in good shape.”
Broadhead is not sure how the speed skating opportunity will work out.
“I’m going to try it,” he said. “Speed skates are a lot different than hockey skates. I don’t know for sure if I’ll even be good at it, but they’re going to give me the chance to try.”
The last time he tried on speed skates was when he was growing up in Hay River.
“I know I’m in good shape and I can skate well so those are two things that could factor into helping me skate as a speed skater,” he said.
In addition, he would also be interested in trying track cycling.
“I think that looks really interesting,” he said.
As of late last week, the official invitations from sports organizations had not been sent out for RBC Training Ground winners.
However, Broadhead has been told by a speed skating coach that he would be getting an invitation to try that sport.
That will involve what’s called phase two testing, he explained. “So there’ll be more specific testing. Basically if they think that might be a good fit then they guide you through the programming and help you try and pursue that sport.”
Broadhead said he has always been a strong skater.
“And one of the main reasons I was able to play hockey in the Western Hockey League, I would say, is because of my skating ability,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t for my puck skills.”
The former junior hockey player said, if he can find a way to convert his hockey stride into a speed skating stride, it would be interesting to see what he can do.
Broadhead recalled he was always athletic as a child in Hay River.
“Growing up I played all the school sports,” he said. “I went to Harry Camsell and I was always involved in cross-country running and track in Hay River, and played soccer and basketball and pretty much everything they offered for school sports in Hay River, and I played Hay River minor hockey in town until I moved when I was 14.”
Plus, he played in two Arctic Winter Games for Team NWT, along with the Canada Winter Games.
Broadhead said he appreciates the support he gets from Hay River, noting he returns to his hometown every summer.
“Hay River is my home,” he said. “That’s where all my friends and family are. I communicate with people from Hay River every day. There’s always lots of support from Hay River.”