Yellowknifer David Gilday got involved in speed skating because his son – Olympian Michael Gilday – wanted to try out the sport as a child.
More than 30 years later, the elder Gilday is still involved in the sport – and is being honoured for his contribution through induction into Speed Skating Canada’s hall of fame as a builder.
Gilday has not only spent decades coaching youth in the sport, but has also served as an official, sat on the national board of directors, and helped create and manage Speed Skating Canada’s youth development fund.
“If you want your kids to have good programs … get yourself involved,” said Gilday, reciting what another parent told him when he first got involved in the sport.
“I got myself a pair of speed skates and learned how to actually speed skate as an adult, and started taking the coaching courses.
“The blades are so much faster than hockey blades. It’s a sensational sensation. I’ve always said skating on long blades is probably as close to flying as an individual can get.”
Calling himself “one of the really lucky people,” Gilday has been to several Arctic Winter Games and a few Canada Winter Games with skaters from across the NWT.
“Our competitive success has come out of lots of kids having lots of fun doing what they’re doing,” he continued. “We can take any kid who has any level of confidence and we can increase that level of confidence.”
In recent years, Gilday has spent part of the winter in Canmore, Alberta. When he first arrived in the town, he went down to the arena to check out the speed skating club and was recognized by the coach, who immediately asked if he would help out.
“That’s why I went to the arena that day, I was really hoping that I would get an invite to join them,” he laughed.
He’s spent the last few years coaching young kids there – a change from the competitive older youth with whom he worked in Yellowknife.
“It’s three times a week, and I look forward to those evenings every week,” he said.
Gilday’s son, Michael, said: “As much as he given to the sport, and has put time into building the sport here in the North and across the country, I think he’s received just as much as he’s put in.
“I’m thankful for the time that he put in. He gave a lot to my career as a skater. But I think really the mark he made on the sport goes much, much further than me or my sister.
“He’s had a marked impact on a lot of kids in the North and certainly on building capacity within the community and across the whole country.”
As for induction into the hall of fame, Gilday said: “Somebody’s got to be picked every year.”
He added: “I’m representative of so many truly good people who volunteer their time do great things with kids.
“I got picked this year and I hope that encourages other people, just ordinary people, to do lots of fun things and serve up great things for kids.”