For Joel Ward, Scarborough shaped him into the man—and professional athlete—he is today. Ward currently lives in California, where he plays in the National Hockey League as a Forward with the San Jose Sharks. He credits the inspiration to play hockey to his family, childhood friends and local athletes, including Scarborough native and former NHL goaltender, Kevin Weekes.
Joel Ward is humble and optimistic. No ego, no grandstanding. Perhaps that was instilled by his parents, immigrants to Canada from Barbados, who like all parents, want their children to fit in and be proud of their community. He’s certainly proud to call Scarborough home and contributing to the community is close to his heart.
“Scarborough is a place that encouraged me to be who I am today. Giving back to the community is truly important to me. As a professional athlete, I feel it’s my duty to be a role model to younger generations—someone kids can look up to help achieve their goals. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in and out of Scarborough, from visiting schools and children’s hospitals to being a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I’m also very devoted in my team’s foundation.”
Ward humbly understates his involvement with youth. When he was a player for the Nashville Predators, Ward connected with Big Brothers Big Sisters to mentor a then twelve-year-old Malik Johnson, who recently became the first in his family to graduate high school. The two still keep in touch and he’s currently working with the Nashville Predators and preparing for college.
Ward’s career trajectory to professional athlete was a steady build and he believes goal-setting, dedication and people believing in his skills made his achievement possible. If he hadn’t become a hockey player, Ward says he may have become a kindergarten teacher. “I like working with children and encouraging them to be the best they can. Seeing their progress is rewarding.” He jokes, “besides, who doesn’t like snack time and a good afternoon nap!”
“If a Scarborough kid from Brooks Road Public School and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute can graduate from the University of Prince Edward Island and then go on to play in the National Hockey League… so can you!”
Photo courtesy of Joel Ward and the San Jose Sharks.