Is there a better way to introduce new Canadians to Canadian culture than
That was the question behind a mid-February event that saw 25 Syrian
children take to the ice – most of them for the first time – outdoors at
Hayward Park in LaSalle, Que., a Montreal suburb, with the help of two
local Peewee A teams, the Jaguars and Lions.
Jaguars assistant coach Mike Bertoldi, along with team manager Angelo Falbo
and AHM LaSalle president Philippe Piette, put the event together after
Bertoldi got the idea at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“It all started at the World Juniors,” Piette said. “Michael was at a game
at the Bell Centre and he called me after seeing the Chevrolet Good Deeds
Cup commercial on the jumbotron.”
Good Deeds Cup
recognizes Peewee teams across the country who make a difference in their
“We should do something,” Bertoldi said of the initial call. “But what?”
Piette suggested inviting Syrian refugees to come out and learn to play
hockey, with the help of the Jaguars and Lions, and the idea was off and
running. Bertoldi got in touch with government organizations in Montreal to
help identify the families, and the group went online, and into schools, to
provide financial assistance.
“We raised about $3,500 with our online fundraising and initiative that our
players organized at school," said Bertoldi. “The City of LaSalle also gave
us support to make this day possible.”
For the LaSalle locals, the day was about making the Syrians feel at home.
On the ice, the players more than did their part. They made a guard of
honour to welcome the Syrians, and each player paired with a child who
became their partner for the day. They helped with lacing their skates,
putting on their helmets, and, of course, teaching them how to skate.
“We organized this to make them feel welcomed,” Bertoldi said. “With what
happened in Quebec City, our kids were asking questions. We really wanted
to show them that we, like the rest of Canada, are opening our doors to
them. We also wanted to show our kids that there are no racial differences
once we get on the ice.”
“It’s really great to be able to skate with people who have never had the
chance to do so before they got here,” said Jayson Brind’Amour, a member of
the Jaguars. It’s nice to show them some skills and watch them improve
throughout the day.”
Brind’Amour was paired with Sara Alsmaan, who has been in Canada for a
year-and-a-half and was one of the few Syrians who had previous experience
on the ice. “I loved my day here and I have to thank my partner Jayson for
teaching me,” she said. “I would also like to thank all those who
participated in organizing this event.”
As big as the smiles were on the faces of the Syrian children, they were
just as big on the faces of their parents, who got the chance to watch
their kids participate in the most Canadian of winter activities.
“It’s a perfect day,” said Rami Donat, a father of two. “We’re not a big
Syrian community here in LaSalle, so it’s good to meet everyone. We found a
perfect country here for a fresh start and we have had a warm welcome so