2022 hcf assist fund leon

What the Assist Fund means to me: Anouchka Hawkes-O'Hara

The Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund helped Anouchka’s son Leon build connections in his community and gain a sense of belonging

July 7, 2022

Growing up in Ireland, I would watch hockey in the middle of the night because I loved it. I was a big Mario Lemieux fan. When I moved to Canada almost 20 years ago, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the sport.

When I had my children, I always wanted them to play hockey and I’m a big believer in sports and the positive power it has on kids.

My son Leon is 10 years old, and he is an old soul. He is a firm believer in fair play and is concerned with how other people are doing. While he likes the competition, he likes to be the best he can be.

When Leon was younger, he watched his older brother Floyd play hockey and when asked who his favourite player was, he would say Floyd. He wanted to be just like him and wanted to play hockey, too.

The hockey rink is an integral part of our community – it is the heartbeat of Stanley, New Brunswick. Really, the rink is our community. Everyone has made us feel so welcome and made me feel that I wasn’t an outsider because I came from Ireland.

My boys have grown up at the rink and have made so many new friends through hockey. Leon has such good influences in his life through his coaches, who are teaching him and his teammates life lessons, along with building those hockey skills.

Through hockey, Leon gets that sense of belonging. There is such a camaraderie through sport that Leon is developing with his teammates.

With four children, including three boys in hockey, we have felt the same financial constraints that many Canadian families have faced recently.

This past season when I went to register them, a volunteer told me about the Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund, and I applied that night. The process was easy, and I got the registration fees covered for all three boys.

If it wasn’t for the Assist Fund, especially this year, I wouldn’t have been able to put the kids in hockey. Things have been lean, and I didn’t want to disappoint them by not playing the sport they love.

Some people are embarrassed to apply, but I am not. Any trepidation I had about applying and asking for an assist is eclipsed by the look of joy on my kids’ faces.

Even at 10 years old, Leon understood what it meant to get this assist and he was so excited. He is a very kind kid and notices everything. He is aware how much things cost, and he was so happy to know that Hockey Canada helped him and his brothers this season.

Hockey is such an integral part of Leon’s life. Although he knows he will never be a National Hockey League player, he loves the game so much that he even has a beer league name picked out. He wants to play hockey throughout high school and hopefully on a university scholarship.

When I see other parents in the same spot as I am, I know they are appreciative. We might not love the 5 a.m. wakeup calls for games, but the look on their faces when they hit the ice is the best thing.

Our community is so great, and we are all Bulldogs. We spend all winter at the rink, and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Hockey is so much more than wins, losses or even Gordie Howe hat tricks – it is a lifelong love affair and the joy they experience when playing a game. I am so happy to give my kids the opportunity because we got an assist from Hockey Canada.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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