Whether he’s playing in a pick-up game, coaching kids in the city’s minor leagues or organizing a tournament, Kendall Wing’s passion for soccer runs deep.
“I just love the sport,” he said. “I’m already teaching my little guys to kick around a soccer ball.”
Wing, a born and bred Rupertite, who works at the grain terminal, was introduced to the game later in life, having played mostly basketball as a young man.
In addition to playing recreationally, Wing has played in two All Native tournaments for Port Simpson, once as an intermediate player and then years later in the master’s division.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was fun to represent the village, my mum is from there.”
Wing said he didn’t start playing soccer until he was 26 years old. At the time, some of the city’s cab drivers would play in casual games every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on the Roosevelt Park soccer field.
Wing was invited to join, and he said he was hooked from the moment he first kicked a ball.
“Just scoring those first couple of goals made me feel good and made me want to keep playing,” he said. “And seeing some of those better players made me want to get better too.”
At the time, there weren’t any recreational soccer leagues available for adults or a representative men’s team in Prince Rupert. After playing in casual games for a few years, Wing said a group of the players decided to organize and create a team.
“After playing with the cabbies, we realized how much talent there was in Prince Rupert so we wanted to take it further,” he said.
In 2011, the group founded Prince Rupert Football Club (PRFC), a travelling team that competed in more than 24 village tournaments over the next eight years and is still playing today.
“We were pretty good,” Wing said. “For a while there we were the team to beat.”
Wing said the team’s first season in 2011 was the most memorable one for him because of how competitive and physical the tournaments were.
At a double-elimination tournament in Hazelton, PRFC lost their first game and was forced to fight their way back through the losers bracket to stay in the competition.
The team eventually made the finals, but had to play in back-to-back games on the final day of the tournament to get there.
“The finals were right after our semi-final game and we had an option to either wait for thirty minutes or play right away,” Wing said. “We talked about it and decided to just play because we were afraid our legs would cramp up if we sat down for too long.”
PRFC got back on the pitch and were able to win the game and the tournament despite having played three games in a row. It was a match that earned the respect both of the Hazelton team and the crowd.
“The locals were cheering for the other team the whole time,” Wing said. “But at the end of the game they gave us props.”
Wing left the team after five summer seasons, but wanted to keep playing recreationally. He returned to the pickup games where he first started playing soccer.
By this time, more players from the city were participating in the casual games and interest grew for a league that included both men and women. Wing eventually asked about interest on Facebook and last year, he started the coed 7-on-7 soccer league that plays once a week at Charles Hays Secondary School.
So far, the league has been a success, with 150 people registering to play in 2017 and 136 people playing this summer. However, the coed league is part of a bigger trend of soccer growing in Prince Rupert over the past few years.
PRFC, the team Wing helped to start, is still going strong and continues to compete in village tournaments across the northwest. This summer, the Breakers Breezers — a brand new women’s team — was founded, giving female players an opportunity to compete. The Prince Rupert Minor Soccer Association (PRMSA) has also continued to introduce the game to the city’s youngest talent.
Wing, who is both a coach in the PRMSA and has coached the Breakers Breezers, said he is excited to see the game growing with opportunities for everyone to participate and play. He is especially waiting for the day when he can either play with or coach his two young sons.
“I can’t explain how happy I’ll be just to be out there watching them,” he said. “It’s pretty much for them.”