P.E.I. hockey player skates into powerful issue

Jim Day, The Guardian
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Maddy Koughan takes part in video to raise awareness about mental health

Maddy Koughan, 16, of Mermaid is in her first year with the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland, Ontario. She and Blake Jamieson, 15, of Little Pond, along with other players from the academy, are featured in a new music video created by Larry Pegg of Ottawa to deliver a powerful message about mental health.

As a hockey player, Maddy Koughan naturally places great emphasis on her physical conditioning.

Her hockey world has also recently driven home the value maintaining good mental health.

Koughan, 16, of Mermaid is in her first year with the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland, Ontario.

She and four 15-year-old P.E.I. hockey players -- Blake Jamieson, of Little Pond, Syl Yoston of Launching, Brechan MacLean of Charlottetown, and Jaxon Lamont of Summerside -- along with other players from the academy, are featured in a new music video created by Larry Pegg of Ottawa to deliver a powerful message about mental health.

Pegg wants young people to know it is possible to emerge from the darkness of depression and mental health problems.

Koughan describes as eye-opening and jolting hearing Pegg talk about his daughter, Kelly, a bubbly 20-year-old athlete who took her own life.

“It was hard to listen to and hard to believe you don’t see the signs,’’ she said.

Pegg and his family were devastated by the loss. He was plunged into debilitating grief. He has emerged with strength and determination to help to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy.

He started writing songs to raise awareness of mental illness. In November, he created The Hockey Project to promote mental health awareness, using the slogan “Hockey is great, life is bigger.’’

As part of The Hockey Project, Pegg came up with the idea to shoot a video that promotes getting mental health out of the penalty box.

Canadian International Hockey Academy students from 11 countries were part of the video.

Koughan and Jamieson appear in the video in both a mock hockey game and as part of a well -choreographed dance number for 80 players.

“It was a lot of fun,’’ she said. “You got to do what you love — play hockey — and you got to put it towards a good cause: (raising awareness about) mental health.’’

She says the video (take a look at www.TheHockeyProject.ca) “looks amazing’’ and delivers a strong message.

Pegg said he wishes a life-saving message could have been delivered to his own daughter before she slipped away to her room from a family dinner on Dec. 9, 2007 where she brought her life to a sudden end.

Since his daughter was a hockey lover, Pegg decided to use that sport as a platform to get the word out.

He says The Hockey Project has been receiving good media attention and many people are watching the video.

Organizations: Canadian International Hockey Academy

Geographic location: Rockland, Ontario, Ottawa

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