When Keyaan Jivraj was little he knew exactly what he wanted to do: play hockey. His parents, Shein and Rahim were nervous about hockey because of stories describing the animalistic nature of the sport - not on the ice, mind you, but in the stands.
Keyaan wasn’t aware of any of that and he wanted to try hockey. Keyaan had been skiing before and decided to ask his mother about downhill racing.
“That was it,” says Shein. “I told him he could play hockey, but no downhill racing. I’m sure he planned it that way.”
I caught up with Shein Jivraj to hear about her experience in hockey with Keyaan and the remarkable cherry that topped off their first season.
Kelvin: tell me about your experience watching Keyaan play hockey this year - how did he like it, how did he get started, how do you feel about it now?
Someone told us about cookie monsters because they knew Keyaan wanted to play hockey. He was a bit old, but we brought him here and thought we would get it out of his system. This is, however, not what happened. He loved it so much he carried on in the summer with the Inside Edge guys, he did classes and decided to keep playing here at NSWC.
At the end of that season he had asked to play real hockey but we didn’t want to get into it because of the stories of the crazy parents. We weren’t sure, but part of it was because Keyaan felt comfortable here, it was a smaller place and it felt right. We didn’t think we were going to fit in. We came and started and lucked out with our coaches, Karen Kos and Mike and Gabe and they’re all so much fun. So encouraging and positive.
He’s supposed to be in Hockey 4 but Gabe Hoffart convinced us to stay in Hockey 3 so he could gain some confidence around other kids. And we said sure! We’re here for him to have fun and learn a new skill. Have him enjoy a sport and learn. We lucked out and it’s been such a great thing for him. He has a special connection with Karen who does the powerskating, he gets along with her son and he just loves her. Ear to ear, always smiling.
Is that the most important thing for you? The experience, having fun?
Learning comes from having fun. It’s not what hockey gives him on the ice, it’s what he takes away off the ice. He’s more confident now, he’s around positive people, he takes that out into the world and he learns how to be part of a group. You can see our team, they think about each other, they pass to each other. It’s a great group and it’s been so good for him. It’s great to learn a new skill but it’s everything else it’s given him.
That drive, that energy, that positivity. That confidence. You guys had another pretty cool event happen this season, right?
That’s right, Keyaan got skate with the Canucks in warmup. Through some mutual acquaintances, we were asked because there was a last minute open spot. I had a small panic attack, I was nervous, but Keyaan wanted to do it, so we did it.
Those pictures, you can see it in his eyes, the focus. We had to leave him about a half hour before. The guy, Rod, gave him tons of instructions. Do this, do that, there’s a lot. And we’re not around, he’s on his own. He’s like yep, yep, calm. He leads the team out, and there’s a guy who gives him the signal, he had to turn around and make sure Ryan Miller is behind him before he could go. You can see on the video, it’s so loud, it was Pittsburgh and it’s televised, you see the camera and the lights. And he’s completely calm. He sees the signal, turns around and then he goes.
And the calm is something you didn’t expect?
Not at all. I thought he would be so nervous. This is because this coaches and his team have instilled this confidence and the ability to stay calm. It’s that drive in his eyes. He wants to do well no matter what.
Could he have done it a year ago?
I think he could have done it, but I don’t think he would have had the sense of self to be in the moment and do it. That’s what hockey gives him and gives every individual - the ability to be present in the moment and understand their role and understand what they’re supposed to do, you don’t want to mess things up, it’s a chain reaction. He falls over the bench and Ryan Miller will fall over him.
There’s huge guys whipping around him and he’s just focused, skating around and doing his thing. For us as parents that’s a bigger piece of it, the fact he remained calm and focused and understood what he was supposed to do.
What did he say once it was done?
We didn’t see him until he came up to our seats later. Again, he was so chill. He was calm, I was thrilled. I asked, what are the guys like? Huge, mom. Oh my god mom, huge. He was standing beside Daniel and Yannick Hansen and they came over to help him and chat with him. His focus was the players and whether or not they were good guys or not. Being on the ice with Sydney Crosby, who is his idol, was incredible. He got to share the ice with Sydney Crosby, he could recognize how focused Sid was. They can’t go over to the other team’s side of the ice or talk to them. It’s their job, they need to focus.
And now we tell him he needs to practice. Sidney Crosby practices every day, we show him the videos of players practicing. And he says oh my god that’s what I do, it doesn’t stop next year, or two years from now. Sid’s still doing it and he’s the best in the world so it’s a lifelong commitment to practicing and hard work.
How did his teammates react?
You know, when it happened, people wondered why we didn’t tell anyone about it. When you get privileges in your life you want to keep them in check. It’s fine to a point, but it was a big learning experience for him to be humble, you need to understand that it’s special. Gabe Hoffart was actually at the game with his older son and he saw Keyaan on the big screen and sent me a message, why didn’t you tell us?
What else does Keyaan do when he’s not warming up across from Sidney Crosby or whirling around with his teammates here at the club?
He plays the piano and he takes public speaking classes, we’re all about the well-rounded individuals. He likes travelling, too. He wants to go everywhere. We’re supposed to go to Arizona because he wants to go to see the Phoenix Coyotes, but also the Sonoran Desert to see the gila monsters. He likes that stuff. His older brother and him are so tight and they share so many things. That’s our culture, our family, it’s about being a part of a big world and understanding other cultures and what they do and what they eat.
Looking back, we tried to do everything except hockey. It’s huge for us because we didn’t want to be here, but in hindsight it’s done so much for him in such a short time, we’re so happy we’re here in hockey. We could never know it would have that kind of impact on him as a person and his growth.
We’re just happy. We’re happy with where he’s at.