Friday 23 February, 2018

Barbados’ Jessica King skates her way into Florida Panthers' hearts

On ice or hard surface, a young Barbadian girl loves skating.

Jessica King may not be sold on making a career of ice skating as the sport can be a little aggressive but she is all smiles when she’s wearing skates, whether rollerblades or ice skates.

Many Caribbean children don’t get a chance to sample ice skating outside of if they travel abroad at winter and go rent a pair, but for Jessica it was a different journey which saw her end up on ice with professional ice hockey players and standing before cameras and microphones on international news.

So, how did Jess end up at a Florida Panthers hockey game last month compliments the Panthers’ players?

The 11-year-old student of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School has had experiences that some others would envy and only dream of, and it was not so much because of luck, as it was due to her skill and passion.

Loop chatted with her mother Daniella King-Carraro, who said, “When Icetopia opened she was crazy excited. She already rollerbladed so the opportunity to ‘ice skate’ for sure was a dream.” Icetopia was a faux ice rink opened in Barbados, which opened September 2016.

Daniella said that Jess skated a lot at the rink, to the point that “many persons were impressed with her capability.”

Therefore, in August 2017, when Icetopia hosted a Ice Hockey Clinic with the Florida Panthers ice hockey team at the local rink, it was an opportunity she for sure didn't miss and in the words of her mum, “Thank God! The skaters were impressed with her above all the other girls and they could not stop telling me how amazing she is, so one of the guys, he told me about a possible trip to the U.S. so that she could see an ice hockey game, and I agreed. But he said don't say anything to her; he wanted to interview her then announce it as a surprise.

“And he did, and boom, she got her trip and had the time of her life, a very unforgettable experience.”

Daniella said, “She definitely will be continuing with ice skating.” However her uncle said he’s not sure that she’ll be taking the ice hockey route to skate on ice necessarily though.

It was uncle Nicholas King who accompanied Jess on the trip in the first week of December. Nicholas said, “It was pretty cool. Fantastic! A great experience!”

Jessica watched the Florida Panthers versus Winnipeg Jets game on December 7, 2017, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Panthers won, and the next day, she returned home on Cloud 9, as they say.

Daniella recalled, “Seeing her on the NBC 6 News and also [during] an interview with Fox Sports, I definitely felt overwhelmed to see my baby doing big things.”

Looking back on it all, young Jessica said, “My experience was awesome, except for the fact that the rink was freezing. I got to meet the entire team and they all knew my name. I felt proud. I got to ride the Zamboni (ice resurfacer machine). I was gifted with the winning-game hockey puck and gifted one of the players hockey sticks.

"I got an autograph bobble head from Aaron who is the number 5 player on the team. I would never forget this experience and I will be seeing them again."

During the game the Barbadian was featured on the big jumbotron in the rink. It showed her skating.

For all that unraveled since the Clinic in August, all Daniella wanted to add was a big ‘thank you’ to Icetopia “for being the gateway for this opportunity.”