This season, in rinks from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, hundreds of thousands of minor hockey players will lace up their skates and have a chance to experience Canada’s game.
But with the cost of hockey – namely registration fees and equipment costs – rising, there are many more that won’t get the chance, from families who just can’t afford to put their children on the ice.
Thanks to the generosity of the Hockey Canada Foundation, with the support of Bauer and the Canadian Tire JumpStart program, 38 young players from Yellowknife and Hay River, N.W.T., won’t be missing out.
The players, between the ages of five and 12, were fitted with brand new equipment – helmets, pads, sticks, etc. – through the Hockey Canada Foundation’s Dreams Come True program when it visited on Sept. 13-14.
“It’s like an early Christmas,” said Chris Bright, executive director of the Hockey Canada Foundation. “These kids just walk around with their bag and just keep getting it filled up.”
Hockey NWT accepted referrals through the KidSport program, Yellowknife Health and Social Services and the JumpStart program. Once the kids were chosen, they were invited to the Canadian Tire store in Yellowknife for the fitting.
“To see the look on their faces was pretty cool,” Spider Jones, executive director of Hockey NWT, told Northern News Services. “They kept asking when they could come back and I heard one kid saying we were having something else on Saturday. They asked us after Saturday if we were coming back the next day and that’s when we told them they had to register with Yellowknife Minor Hockey.”
Saturday’s activities included an on-ice skills clinic with Hockey Canada development coordinator Ross MacLean.
Launched during the 2007-08 season in Toronto, Ont., and Victoria, B.C., the Dreams Come True program was implemented to improve accessibility to the sport. Since then, the program has helped more than 700 kids who wanted to play, but whose families could not afford to pay.
This year’s trip to the Northwest Territories was the first northern venture for the program. It was done through Hockey North, the Hockey Canada branch Hockey NWT is a part of.
“(The Hockey Canada Foundation was) keen to see someone step up and Yellowknife Minor Hockey, with significant support through (past president) Doug Rankin, did so and we were fortunate to have several returning players whose families may have not been able to make the decision about buying equipment,” Jones told Northern News Services.
By involving the local provincial minor hockey branches and host minor hockey associations, the Dreams Come True program ensures that participation takes place in a safe, supportive environment, subject to same standards of existing Hockey Canada programs.
“Hockey is such a part of Canadian life, and we think every young Canadian should get to experience it,” said Bright. “If we can come in here and make a difference for just a few players, and just a few families, it’s worth every penny to us.”