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From a Regina basement to Iran: Saskatchewan hockey training program has worldwide reach

Shae Howorko (left) and Trevor Lakness, owners of TS Hockey Training go through a home-based hockey workout for worldwide clients.
Shae Howorko (left) and Trevor Lakness, owners of TS Hockey Training go through a home-based hockey workout for worldwide clients. Taylor Shire / Global News

Many people have been forced to think outside the box when it comes to providing their service to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes personal trainer and hockey instructor Shae Howorko.

“I knew once the pandemic hit that we were going to have to follow along and take my training to the online aspect,” said Howorko, co-owner of TS Hockey Training.

“It was a boom from the very beginning because people still wanted to train and be active.”

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Howorko knows all about elite-level training, having played for the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos from 2010-12.

When the pandemic hit, he teamed up with Trevor Lakness, who has been training hockey players in Regina for 15 years. The duo formed TS Hockey training, knowing that many athletes wanted to continue their training during the pandemic.

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“The big thing is a lot of kids nowadays have a little rink set up in their garage or basement,” Lakness said. “Parents have spent a lot of money on training stuff at home, so now it gives the parents opportunity to use their space they spent a lot of money on.”

Initially, TS Hockey Training expected their client base to be mainly local since that’s where many of their previous contacts existed. However, due to their social media influence, they developed a worldwide client base.

“I thought it would just be helping out a few kids in Regina through COVID,” Lakness said. “And then all of a sudden with Instagram and Facebook, we’ve connected to kids in six different countries (including Canada) — South Korea, Italy, United States, Mexico, Iran and some interest happening in China.”

In fact, TS Hockey Training has also been working with Iran’s national hockey teams.

“They reached out onto Instagram and they enjoyed what our training had to offer,” Howorko said.

“We get this message from Iran national team and I thought, ‘Wow, with all the political distress in the world, a little basement in Regina could connect to a national Iran team,’ and I thought that was cool,’” Lakness added.

Once a week, Howorko and Lakness provide training for men’s and women’s teams in Iran, who are building their hockey program from the ground up. Most of the current players come from inline hockey and there is only one regulation-size hockey rink in the country of 83 million, which was built just last year.

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“We have some good inline hockey players, we have some good skaters, we have some good stick handlers, but still we never learned hockey in a proper way,” said Farzad Houshidari, captain of Iran’s national men’s hockey team.

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It was Kaveh Sedghi, general manager of the Iranian team, who first reached out to Lakness and Howorko. He was forced to think outside the box as well when it came to finding training for his team. Usually, the team would travel to countries outside Iran for instruction, but with the pandemic restricting travel, Sedghi headed online, where he found TS Hockey Training in Regina.

“(Sedghi is) always searching for something new,” Houshidari said. “And now that we have an ice rink over here, it’s a whole other level. We have a lot to learn.”

Iran has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since Sept. 26, 2019. The team has competed in the IIHF’s Asian competitions, however, it is currently not ranked in the IIHF’s world rankings, which has 54 countries on the men’s side and 40 on the women’s. Its goal one day is to compete in more Asian championships, and one day rank among the best over there.

“We are practising and we are using whatever we can and we are using any help that we can get,” said Houshidari, who’s also the manager of the Ice Box, the only hockey rink in Teheran. “We have a lot to learn so we can compete with these guys.”

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And so, the partnership with TS Hockey Training in Regina will continue into the future.

“We don’t have any experience. Whatever we learn, whatever they show us, we can use,” Houshidari said. “We’re not going to say we know this or we already achieved this. Whatever they’re showing us, it’s new.”

There have also been lessons learned for the team giving out the instruction as well.

“The best learning experience besides hockey has just been learning that these people from Iran are no different than all of us,” Lakness said.

And what was expected to be a short-term solution to offering training during the pandemic has very likely turned into a long-term path.

“I truly believe online is the new aspect of getting training,” Howorko said.

“The sky is the limit on how many countries we can get and the opportunities we have to maybe go there someday,” Lakness said.