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Blair Olsen and Haley Patyna holding an AED

Coming together to save a life

Three Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association trainers were in the right place at the right time, and their quick-thinking – and a powerful community response – saved a player’s life

Shannon Coulter
|
October 28, 2021

Sometimes, decisions are made in life that are meant to be. Just like how the little voice in trainer Haley Patyna’s head told her not to forget her medical bag as she went to Cardel Rec South in Calgary on Oct. 7.

Or how trainers Shyin Dixon and Blair Olsen weren’t originally supposed to be at the rink that night, but they joined Patyna to assist her U21 team with baseline concussion testing.

“Looking back, it was kind of wild because it was supposed to be just me,” says Patyna, 24. “But luckily, it was all three of us.”

Ultimately those two decisions are a part of the reason why a life was saved that evening.

As the clock ticked past 10 p.m., only Patyna’s U21 team and a 55-plus recreational league remained at the rink. With their testing complete, the Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association trainers were socializing and catching up in the hallway.

“These two guys came out of the rink where [the recreational league was playing], and they said that they needed an AED [automated external defibrillator],” says Olsen, 23. “They said they had a guy on the ice that was having a heart attack.”

The three trainers sprung into action. Olsen went to grab the AED located at the arena while Patyna grabbed her medical bag. Patyna and Dixon were first on the ice to assist the player.

“He was very obviously in medical distress, really struggling to breathe,” says Dixon, 24.

With the AED in hand, Olsen joined her fellow trainers on the ice, and they began to set up the defibrillator on the player. Dixon began CPR when they noticed the man had stopped breathing and they couldn’t find a pulse.

The trainers’ interventions with the AED worked, and within a few minutes the man was fully conscious and speaking again.

“It wasn’t long at all, granted when we were out there it felt like eternity,” Patyna says. “It was maybe five minutes before he was fully aware, he knew where he was and he knew what had happened.”

As a part of their preparedness for every game, trainers have an action plan to assign who will do what role in an emergency. But the three trainers were not the only ones who played a key role in this situation. The recreational league team on the ice was actively helping in any way it could, from taking off the player’s equipment, calling 911 and providing towels and blankets.

“Even before the paramedics showed up, the team was donating all of their jerseys to help keep him warm on the ice,” Dixon says. “The team was a fantastic help during that, they were there for anything that we needed.”

“I hope those guys give themselves credit for it, too,” Olsen says. “They were quick to give us credit for it, but their effort was just as important.”

As the paramedics arrived and loaded the player onto the stretcher, he was chatting and joking with his teammates.

“It was definitely a relief to see him going off to the hospital in high spirits and in a good mood,” Patyna says.

Since the night of the emergency, the community reaction Dixon, Patyna and Olsen have experienced for saving a man’s life has been surreal.

“I did not expect it to blow up as much as it did,” Olsen says. “When we left the rink, we just were happy that it had a happy outcome.”

“To all of us, we just did what we were trained to do,” Patyna adds. “We don’t do it to expect a reward out of it. We do it because we love it.”

The incident has also re-confirmed the importance of having AEDs located in public areas.

“They’re very straightforward to use. They come with very detailed instructions,” Dixon says. “Even if it saves one life, it’s 100 per cent worth it every single time.”

“My dad was talking about getting one installed in their office after the whole situation,” Olsen adds.

This past weekend, the player returned to the rink to look for the trainers who saved his life. Olsen and Patyna were there, and they got to speak with him and his family in person to see how he was doing since the emergency.

“That was really nice,” Olsen says. “It was good to see him in as good of a condition as he’s in now.”

Looking back, two things stand out to the trainers: how important it is to always be prepared and how powerful a community response can be in emergencies.

“That was really a team effort that night from everyone,” Olsen says. “If I were to ever go through this again, I would just remember that the people around me are my team, use them.”

“I was amazed at the sense of community that night,” Dixon adds. “It’s insane how people just come together to help one person.”

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Community comes together for Canadette

When Amy St. John was seriously injured in a tragic accident last December, her hockey family rallied to support her mother and four siblings

Katie Brickman
|
May 26, 2022

When tragedy struck one of their own, the hockey community in Brampton came together.

Last December, Amy St. John, a 12-year-old goaltender for the U15 Brampton Canadettes, was seriously injured when she was struck and dragged by a school bus on her way to school.

Paramedics rushed her to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, but she was transferred to St. Mike’s Hospital due to the extent of her injuries. Amy suffered a crushing injury to the back of her pelvis and significant nerve damage to her left leg, and needed reconstructive surgery.

When Tina Kelloway, vice-president of the Brampton Canadettes Girls Hockey Association (BCGHA), heard about Amy’s accident, she reached out to Amy’s mom, Joelle, right away to see how the association could support the St. John family.

“I was absolutely heartbroken and just thinking about it still makes me want to cry,” Kelloway says. “I’ve known Amy for years as she came up through our house league divisions and hockey was always a joy for her – she adored playing and she always has a smile on her face when she came to the rink.

“I can’t begin to imagine the trauma Amy was going through and what her family had to go through with her. It was such a horrendous event.”

Amy is the youngest of five children. With the accident, Joelle has been unable to work in order to care for her daughter.

With the significant financial strain to the family, as well as the extent of physiotherapy and care that Amy needed right after the accident and into the future, the Canadettes quickly came together to figure out a way to help.

“Another mom and I started the fundraising page, but asked the league to step in to help build awareness,” says Jill Hartling, the Canadettes team manager. “The girls were shocked and devastated for what happened to Amy and the team just wanted to jump on board and help her.”

Over the Christmas period, the team put together a gift basket with beauty products and arts and craft materials for Amy to help life her spirits.

“Amy was home at the time when we dropped that basket off and it was nice to talk with her and see how she was doing,” says Hartling. “The team rallied around the St. John family and they were always thinking of Amy this season.”

The league previously held a fundraiser in 2018 for another player who needed help after an accident and used that experience to build awareness for Amy and her family. Every spring, the BCGHA holds its annual Easter Tournament, which is one of the largest girls’ hockey tournaments in the world. This year, it included 380 teams.

Through that tournament, the Canadettes held a silent auction with various pieces of sports memorabilia, and shared Amy’s story to create awareness for donations.

“The majority of teams that participated in the tournament provided a donation or silent auction bids,” says Kelloway. “The vast support we and Amy received from the community was nice to see. We raised a lot of money for Amy’s recovery through the silent auction and donations.”

Donations came in from players, teams and anonymous donors across the Greater Toronto Area. Throughout the past few months, the league and the family has felt the power of the hockey community.

“This has shown just how amazing the hockey world is. The hockey community is incredible … how everyone comes together to rally to help others,” Kelloway says. “It is overwhelming how generous teams, players and families have been. You can see through the donations how supportive and encouraging everyone has been towards someone they may have never interacted with before. The generosity everyone has shown is incredible. After the last couple of years with the pandemic, this story shows the positive and caring side of community and that’s refreshing.”

While Amy has shown strength and determination in her recovery, her prognosis is still unknown. Kelloway and the BCGHA are hoping the funds raised will help the family in any way they need it.

In a written statement, Joelle shared how much everything has meant to her and the family: “As a mother going through one the hardest times, I am overwhelmed by the love and support of the Canadettes and how without hesitation, they rallied around my kids and I. When you have a child recovering from this type of accident, everything changes, and your child’s recovery must take priority. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.”

The fundraiser for Amy St. John is still ongoing and will remain open to donations.

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Helping in a time of need

When a historic weather event caused devastating flooding and landslides in British Columbia, the hockey community came together to help affected residents and teams

Shannon Coulter
|
January 17, 2022

The hockey community is unlike any other. In times of need, hockey families across the country have proved time and time again that they are ready and willing to help their communities.

When record-breaking rainfall hit southwestern British Columbia in November, several local hockey associations came together to support communities that were impacted by devastating flooding and landslides. Here are a few ways these associations and teams worked to help.

Summerland Minor Hockey Association

The Princeton Posse may be a long-time rival of the Summerland Jets, but that rivalry was set aside to put community first after the destructive flooding. When Summerland’s U9 team hosted the Posse, players, parents and staff organized a food drive to send some essential items back with the Posse’s families. Along with the food drive, the team made goody bags for each Princeton player that included packs of Pokemon and hockey cards.

Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association

After hosting the Merritt Centennials, the Vernon Junior Vipers’ U11 Development C team invited its opponents for a pizza dinner in a dressing room. Players from the Vipers helped to set up the dressing room before the game, hoping the small gesture would make the Centennials feel supported by other communities in B.C.

There was another act of kindness by the association when the Abbotsford Hawks, who were supposed to travel to Vernon for a tournament, had to cancel their travel plans due to the flooding. According to the GVMHA’s Facebook page, participants and spectators at the tournament worked together to raise $1,000 for the Hawks ahead of the holiday season.

Penticton Vees — British Columbia Hockey League

Following a weekend win in Trail, B.C., the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies travelled to Penticton for what was originally planned to be an overnight stay. However, with the historic storm, the team was stuck and unable to travel home.

With the unexpected extended stay, the Penticton Vees stepped up and gave the Grizzlies a dressing room and ice to practice on while they were in town.

"When the puck drops, we want to beat the other team, but we're partners and we wanted to make sure we made their stay as comfortable as possible," Vees president, head coach and general manager Fred Harbinson told CTV News.

Squamish Minor Hockey Association

After the Squamish Eagles U13 A2 team had a game against Chilliwack cancelled due to the storm, the players decided to run a food drive instead. The team gathered outside a local grocery store to encourage shoppers to help fill a hockey net with food to support the Fraser Valley flood victims.

With support from the Cloverdale Community Kitchen for distribution, the Eagles raised $530 and gathered several boxes of food for those affected in Chilliwack.

Mission Minor Hockey Association

When the Mission Stars heard about the historic flooding, the association organized a “Fill the Trailer“ event. From non-perishable food items to things like blankets, winter jackets, socks and toiletries, the Stars ran the event for four hours at a community centre all to give back to communities affected by the storms.

Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association

The Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey U18 C1 team was preparing for a hockey tournament in Abbotsford when the flooding occurred. When the team saw the devastating impact in Abbotsford, it decided to donate $300 to the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund to support Abbotsford hockey families and others affected by the flooding.

Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association

The Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association had previously planned a 50/50 draw for its U21 team in December. After the destructive storms in November, the association also wanted to use its fundraiser to support the flood relief efforts. Cloverdale announced that 25 per cent of the proceeds from its 50/50 draw would support victims of the flooding.

North Delta Minor Hockey Association

The North Delta Minor Hockey Association decided to organize an association-wide bottle drive to support the residents of Merritt, B.C., who were evacuated due to flooding. The idea was created and spearheaded by Tam Manery, who was inspired to run the drive when her son’s tournament in Merritt was cancelled.

Although the weather could have been better during the bottle drive, parents and players helped with picking up and sorting bottles. The association says there was a steady stream of bottles and generous cash donations, which will all go towards a great cause.

Thank you to these hockey teams, and to everyone who stepped up to help their surrounding communities in a time of need. Your positive impacts in your communities have inspired us all to make a difference.

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Rallying in lavender

With sticks wrapped in lavender tape, players from Hockey Regina are leading the charge to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society through Hockey Fights Cancer

Shannon Coulter
|
November 19, 2021

Certain colours can hold special meanings and unite communities. For example, when Canadians think of red, we think about the pride of representing the Maple Leaf.

In Regina, Sask., the colour lavender is the talk of the town. That’s because Hockey Regina is running its Lavender Days campaign in association with the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Cancer touches so many, and it’s important to me to have the players remember that there’s bigger stuff than them,” says Joanne Eberle, the media and events manager with Hockey Regina. “The kids really take ownership of it.”

Now in its third year, about 170 teams in Regina participate in the fundraising drive to support Hockey Fights Cancer through November and December. Lavender tape is put on sticks, decals are placed on helmets and the two AAA teams in town wear lavender jerseys that are later auctioned off for the campaign. From Timbits U7 to U18, the players on each team decide how they want to raise money and give back to their community.

“They were pieing their coach, they were doing candy guess jars, they were doing all kinds of stuff,” Eberle says. “We have some teams that will shovel snow, they’ll donate their allowance, or they’ll do a read-a-thon or a walk-a-thon or exercise in some way. We really left it open to all the teams.”

Eight-year-old Aliya Hartney had her own creative idea to help raise money for Lavender Days.

“I did a video and I talked about cancer and why we help people because you want to help people to not lose their loved ones from cancer,” she says.

That sentiment hits close to home for Hartney as her grandmother died from brain cancer when her mother was only four years old. Her video helped to raise $1,505 for Lavender Days.

“I like helping people,” she says. “The more money we raise, the closer we can get to find a cure for cancer.”

The campaign takes on a deeper meaning when people in the hockey community have personal connections to cancer. Following the conclusion of a previous Lavender Days campaign, a player received a cancer diagnosis. Their team responded by bringing back lavender tape for their sticks to show support.

“It’s something that doesn’t just stick with them for the two months that we do it,” Eberle says. “It’s something that they carry through the whole season.”

For the special AAA Lavender Games, each home team chose someone associated with the team that had a cancer story for a ceremonial puck drop. The Regina Pat Canadians chose a 12-year-old hockey player who was battling cancer. The Regina Rebels chose their trainer’s two-year-old nephew, who was also fighting cancer.

“If there was a dry eye in that house, I’d be surprised,” Eberle says. “It was such a big impact, having this little guy come out there and drop the puck and knowing why he was there.”

Daren Haygarth has been a hockey coach for close to 20 years. The support for Lavender Days in his community has had a profound effect on him based on his family’s connection to cancer.

“My sister-in-law has gone through nine surgeries related to a breast cancer diagnosis and gone through chemo,” he says. “When my son tapes up his sticks and writes her name on them, all of those things tug at my heartstrings a lot.”

Last May, Haygarth began his own personal cancer journey. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful surgery in July 2020. Haygarth initially kept his diagnosis private, but over time he began to tell his friends in the hockey community.

“Of course, my family was super supportive, but you start to realize how supportive the hockey world is,” he says. “The support was just overwhelming.”

Haygarth is now cancer free, but the support he received from his community after his experience reinforced how many positives come from a fundraising campaign like Lavender Days.

“There’s no such thing as a tough time where other people won’t be there to help you through it. I think that’s what I’ve really come to appreciate about Lavender Days and the fundraising efforts that go with it. It’s just raising that kind of awareness that things are bigger than ourselves.”

His U13 AA team, the Regina Royals, is running 50/50 draws this month to support Lavender Days.

“I wasn’t surprised [when] one of our parents won the 50/50 and they just donated it all back,” he says. “Our goal is to raise over $1,000 this month, and we’re way beyond probably going to meet that goal.”

Although Hockey Regina couldn’t do as much fundraising last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has managed to raise over $26,000 in the past two years. Earlier this month, Hockey Regina’s youth players were the recipients of a philanthropic award for Outstanding Youth Philanthropist for their efforts with Lavender Days.

“That’s really exciting for them,” Eberle says. “It’s a youth award, so it doesn’t have anything to do with the adults… it’s about the players and what they’ve done as a whole.

“This is a great way to show kids that your little efforts can turn into something big.”

The goal this year is to raise over $20,000 for Hockey Fights Cancer. Haygarth credits Eberle for leading the creation of positive social interaction between teams while raising money for a good cause.

“It takes somebody within the organization to spearhead these things and create that culture shift,” he says. “I think Joanne’s been a big catalyst here in Regina towards thinking a little differently about hockey and what being a hockey player means.”

For Eberle, the fact the entire community is rallying around a unified cause while decked out in lavender warms her heart.

“Being able to do this as a minor hockey association as a whole is really exciting,” she says. “It unites everybody. Hockey is competitive, but they [put] that aside and turn into one big team. I absolutely love that.”

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Vancouver Angels teammates

Coaching as friends

After meeting on the ice as teammates, Piper Hays and Hayley Palmer’s friendship grew stronger when they began coaching together with the Vancouver Angels

Shannon Coulter
|
September 18, 2021

As defensive partners growing up, Piper Hays and Hayley Palmer have great chemistry on the ice. That chemistry jumped to a new level when the two 18-year-olds began their coaching journeys five years ago.

After becoming friends as teammates, they decided to become on-ice assistants with the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association (VFIHA) when they were just 13. Since then, they have continuously played on the ice together and coached younger girls with the Vancouver Angels.

“I always liked working with children,” Palmer says. “I just thought it would be nice to have younger coaches and female coaches, especially for a group of young girls.”

“It’s just nice to give back,” Hays says. “I think [the girls] get an extra kick out of seeing someone who’s older and still playing doing the same thing that they’re doing. They get to kind of see what they can achieve.”

Both Hays and Palmer had few women as coaches in their hockey careers until they reached the Vancouver Angels U18 team. Although they had positive experiences with men coaching them growing up, they found having a woman behind the bench fostered an even stronger relationship.

“The dynamic is just very different. It’s a lot more comfortable, a lot more open,” Hays explains. “I think it’s easier to take criticisms from people who understand where you’ve come from.”

The growth of women in coaching roles is an important mandate for the VFIHA. When James Nedila became president of the association in 2014, he says there were very few women coaching.

“They were like unicorns, we just couldn’t find them,” Nedila says. “It was a big gap in our coaching where we are a female hockey association but the vast majority of [our coaches] were male.”

The association launched several initiatives to increase the number of women coaching, including mentorships and support for unexperienced coaches and encouraging graduating players to return to the game to coach. Their efforts paid off, and Nedila says people now routinely reach out their association to coach and volunteer.

The hockey community has also flourished with more women actively involved in hockey.

“The culture that we built in this association has definitely improved because of representation,” Nedila says. “It feels like a more inclusive place, it feels like a place where people can help out and see the impact of their efforts immediately.”


Piper Hays coaching with the Vancouver Angels. (VFIHA)

After two years as on-ice assistants, Hays and Palmer took a coaching course to become assistant coaches. Although they were the youngest and only girls in the room back then, they have both noticed an influx of women getting involved in hockey as coaches and volunteers.

“I think it’s just very important that more and more girls play, more and more people coach, because there’s so many people that you want to have represented,” Palmer says.

“The way things are going, it’s been pretty exponential growth,” Hays says. “I’m hoping for at least 50% female coaches [in hockey in the future], which I know seems like a pretty big, drastic number. But there’s a lot of untapped potential right now, and I think once we get this steam train going, I don’t think it’s going to stop for a while.”

The increase of women has also had a large impact on the young players, too.

“I have had girls tell me they want to coach when they’re older,” Palmer says. “It’s great because I think they definitely see it as more of a possibility when they see like me or Piper versus if they see like their dads or their parents coaching.”

The feedback from parents about Hays’ and Palmer’s coaching has been overwhelming positive from parents.

“Their attitude is infectious. It has an effect on everybody around them,” Nedila says. “It’s good to see that feedback reflected back at them to say you know what, you guys are really doing a great job.”


Hayley Palmer with a Vancouver Angels player she coaches.

A new chapter in their coaching journeys began this fall with Hays and Palmer beginning university. Hays left Vancouver to attend the University of Toronto, but she already has started building connections in Ontario to continue coaching.

“It’s an interesting transition,” she says. “I think bringing that sort of experience into a new team is going to be pretty important just because I want to provide that sort of energy and stability that I had with my previous team. I know that a lot of places still don’t have that many female coaches, so I’m hoping I can be someone that [the players] can come to if they ever need anyone.”

With Palmer attending the University of British Columbia, she has continued coaching and playing with the Vancouver Angels, although this will be the first season without Hays by her side. She says several of the players she coached were overcome with joy when they saw her back at the rink to start the season.

“It really makes me feel like what I’m doing does affect other people and it does affect the girls that I’m helping,” Palmer says. “Having them remember me and having positive memories about me is really, really nice.”

The distance may have changed, but the friendship between Hays and Palmer remains just as close. Despite being in different provinces now, coaching is a special connection they will share for life.

“The entire time I’ve been coaching, my best friend and ‘D’ partner has been there the whole time,” Hays says. “And to be honest, without her I never would have gotten here.”

“We got to have the coaching bond, we got to have the hockey bond, the defence partner bond,” Palmer says. “I think coaching together really made our friendship even stronger.”

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Hockey Canada Community

Telling the stories of our game

The Hockey Canada Community, presented by Scotiabank, returns for a second season of celebrating the best of Canadian hockey

Jennifer Robins
|
September 14, 2021

Our game is back and so is the Hockey Canada Community program, presented by Scotiabank!

­Millions of Canadians in every corner of our country help make hockey more, and all of them have a story. The mentorship of a coach, the tireless efforts of a volunteer, the inspirational story of a teammate, the communities that have rallied together to support our game – we want to tell those stories!

The Hockey Canada Community launched in September 2020, with Hockey Canada and Scotiabank celebrating those who helped to change the narrative of hockey during a challenging and unprecedented season.

“The Hockey Canada Community, presented by Scotiabank, has done an incredible job of celebrating all the amazing individuals and communities that are helping make our game special from coast to coast to coast,” said Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada. “Hockey doesn’t happen if not for the people that dedicate their time and effort to making the game better, which is why Hockey Canada and Scotiabank are excited for another season to reward the individuals and highlight the work done to create positive hockey experiences in their communities.”

The program is made up of two foundational components – Community and Champion.

Community tells stories of giving back to or helping grow the game. It could be a hockey team coming together to lead a food bank drive, or one of our 13 Members creating opportunities for inclusivity – Community shines a light on teams, events or programs making a difference.

Do you have an idea for a Community story? Let us know at [email protected].

A Hockey Canada Champion can be a player, coach, official, parent, guardian, volunteer or any individual who has a passion for the game and has dedicated their time to bettering the hockey community, with a Member or their local hockey association.

They are someone who makes hockey more by:

• Leading by example, creating a safe, fun, inclusive environment and always providing a best-in-class experience.
• Continually giving back to the game by being MORE than a coach, MORE than a player, MORE than an official, or MORE than a volunteer or fan.
• Making a tangible and positive impact on the game of hockey and their community.
• Helping to positively change the narrative of hockey in Canada.
• Leaving a legacy or making change in their community.

A Hockey Canada Champion is nominated through the public or by a Hockey Canada Member using the online nomination form. One Champion is selected for each month of the hockey season from September to June, and receives a Hockey Canada jersey and Scotiabank prize pack, as well as a video feature produced about their involvement in the game.

Let’s continue to celebrate and honour Canadians who make our game great by sharing a Community story or nominating a Hockey Canada Champion at HockeyCanada.ca/Community.

For more information on the Hockey Canada Community, presented by Scotiabank, please visit HockeyCanada.ca/Community, or follow along via social media onInstagramFacebook and Twitter.

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Wacey Rabbit Power Skills, Power People

Power skills, power people

A hockey camp created by Wacey Rabbit and supported by the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta is giving Indigenous kids a place to be kids

Lee Boyadjian
|
June 25, 2021

Hockey and community have always gone hand-in-hand for Wacey Rabbit. He remembers getting to the rink for one of his first practices was a family effort.

“My mom didn’t know how to put on my equipment, and I had a 6 a.m. practice, so we had to drive 20 minutes to my grandparents’ place,” Rabbit laughs. “So, I’m sitting there watching Saturday morning cartoons and eating my cereal while my grandparents are showing my mom how to put my equipment on.”

Those memories full of family and friends are the foundation on which Rabbit’s love for the game was built. The 34-year-old just finished his 15th season as a professional, the last three-and-a-half with the Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL. But his experiences within the game didn’t always match his positive outlook. Rabbit remembers the first time he was exposed to racist and derogatory comments at the rink as a 10-year-old playing in his first major tournament away from the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta.

“I remember talking to my parents and grandparents about it and my grandma said, ‘It’s not a reflection on you, it’s a reflection on them for what they’re saying. You be proud of who you are, and you be proud of where I come from.’ And I’ve taken those words with me everywhere I go,” Rabbit says.

“I’m a very proud First Nations man. I come from the Blood Tribe, I’m Blackfoot. For me to say those things and recognize those things, I hope that the next generation is proud that they can chase their dreams whether it’s on reserve or off reserve, whether it’s in academics, sports, whatever it is, whatever their passion is, that they believe in themselves to go and chase that.”

Rabbit is trying to support at least some of the dreams of Indigenous youth, by creating the WR20 Power Skill Hockey Camp and touring it around Alberta. (He has plans to take his camps to First Nations throughout the country when it is safe to do so.)

“We’re just trying to get the game out there and the wellness of sports and living healthy,” Rabbit explains. “Especially with COVID, you could see how hard it was on some of the younger kids … it was important that, even if it was just for an hour a day, these kids got to go on the ice and just be kids to help with their mental health.”

While some locations had to be moved or ice times adjusted to meet public health protocols, Rabbit managed to host camps in Kainai, Siksika and Frog Lake First Nations. At each stop, he recruited other Indigenous professional players to help, including Devin Buffalo.

“Just seeing him work with the kids in Frog Lake, you could tell, a lot of coaches don’t have that connection with the youth,” Buffalo says. “I was able to learn from him, to remember that for the youth, hockey is fun and to keep it fun not to make it too serious, and sometimes it is OK to make hockey playful and play games and just keep things light and fun.”


Growing up, Buffalo says he knew Rabbit had a very successful junior career in the Western Hockey League (including a Memorial Cup in 2007 with the Vancouver Giants) and had gone on to play professionally, but didn’t really get to know him personally until they were both in the ECHL. With similar experiences in their past, Buffalo says Rabbit naturally became a mentor for him and has been a huge support in his own post-playing career, creating goalie camps focused on the development of Indigenous netminders.

“ [Now I’m] passing that on, creating players that are not just great hockey players but great people and students in the classroom,” says Buffalo, who earned a political science degree at Dartmouth College while playing for its men’s hockey team.

In addition to running his own camps, Buffalo works with the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta. He says it was a great decision by the executive committee to name Rabbit a hockey ambassador for the Council.

“He was definitely someone who had all the attributes we were looking for in an ambassador and just the way he responds to the kids and all the kids he does work with have glowing reviews, so I think it was an easy decision,” Buffalo explains.

“Hockey is my passion, but my people are the most important thing for me – my family,” Rabbit says. “Hopefully in 10 years there’s a hundred kids in the NHL and we see a First Nations kid playing for the (Maple) Leafs, finally giving them their [Stanley] Cup, but he’s the captain raising the banner; that’s what I want for the next generation.”

Rabbit laughs while making the joke about the 54-year drought for the Leafs, but keeps smiling thinking about the possibilities for his people.

“For our next generation, I just want to make sure it’s an easier transition for them to get into sports, because at the end of the day sports is about community. It’s about coming together; it’s about having fun … so it’s about building community in sports. I think that’s the most important part.

“Everybody has a voice; everybody has a right to go play and feel like they’re accepted.”


More information on WR20 Power Skill Youth Hockey Camps can be found by following Wacey Rabbit on Instagram @wr20powerskills , and check out
WaniskaMentality.com for more information about Devin Buffalo’s goaltender camps.

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Paying it forward

It was a simple request and one that was even simpler to fulfill, since the Central York Junior Panthers were giving back all along

Wendy Graves
|
May 14, 2021

When the Provincial Women’s Hockey League season shut down in mid-December, Steve Dempsey, head coach of the Central York Junior Panthers, needed ways to keep his players engaged.

He started with Zoom workouts. Wanting another weekly meeting, he began inviting guest speakers, such as U SPORTS coaches, onto the calls. He connected with other PWHL coaches to compare notes. That’s how he learned Melody Davidson had been doing sessions with teams across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyone’s schedules.

Davidson is a summer-sport advisor with Own the Podium, but spent most of the previous 26 years in various roles – including head coach, general manager and scout – with Canada’s National Women’s Team. On a Zoom call at the end of March, she spoke to the Panthers about training, team culture and bringing out the best in your teammates.

At the end, she mentioned how she declined Dempsey’s offer to be paid; instead, she asked the players to pay it forward in their community.

When Dempsey followed up with his players a few weeks later, he learned of their good deeds, including:

• donating no-longer-needed clothes and hockey equipment;
• picking up garbage at parks and on hiking trails;
• running errands for older family members, and for neighbours who tested positive for COVID-19;
• volunteering for groups dedicated to empowering young girls;
• helping neighbours clean their property;
• being a mentor to younger women’s hockey players; and
• going on walks with a blind gentleman whose guide dog recently passed away.

Having been a caregiver to both his parents, Dempsey was touched by his players’ efforts to help others. In reality, he never needed to check up on them. His players were giving back all along.

For Dempsey, it brought to mind John Wooden, the legendary coach who led the UCLA men’s basketball team to 10 national championships but never judged his success in titles.

“[Wooden believed] when all the accolades are gone, the reporters aren't around and the TV cameras aren't on them, that's when you see the true character of people,” says Dempsey. “So to see that my players were doing these things without any fanfare before Mel even asked, I thought it was really special.”

“We want to not only give back to the community but also inspire others to give back and be role models,” says Alexa Giantsopoulos, a Panthers forward. Giantsopoulos had already helped with She Shoots, She Saves, a Central York Girls Hockey Association (CYGHA) campaign to raise funds to buy automated external defibrillators, and made skills videos for younger players. In July, she’ll run a safety campaign for her local fire and emergency services, and next season she’ll be a volunteer coach for the U11 Panthers team.

“Coach Steve always says that he wants good people who happen to play hockey,” she says. “I think he nailed it with this group. There’s tremendous character. We want to leave our mark with the Central York Panthers. We want to inspire others to go above and beyond. It’s important to us to help people and do things that aren't asked of us so that we can be role models for younger players.”

Dempsey started a book club with his leadership team, with Legacy, about the New Zealand All Blacks, being the focus. “We talked about what we could use from it to build a better team culture and a better hockey experience, and to be able to bring out good life skills. We're trying to use sport as a vehicle for them to be stronger female voices in the community and to be leaders.”

In March, the Junior Panthers were a driving force in She Shoots, She Saves, creating skills videos and trick shot videos to generate excitement for the fundraiser.

Earlier this year, Dempsey, who is also the coach mentor for CYGHA, heard how younger players were having a tough time mentally because social-distancing restrictions prevented them from hanging out with their friends. “My players came up with an idea on their own to make these kids feel connected among one another.” They created a weekly video skills series. The videos also encourage players to challenge each other with trick shots. “It was something our players took on not necessarily to make them better hockey players, but just to make them better with their mental health.”

The Panthers will continue to give back. It’s the legacy they want to write for themselves.

“We want the kids that come through this program to always be a positive impact on the community,” says Dempsey. “As much as the pandemic has been a tough situation for everybody, we’ve had more time to give back. It’s allowed us to entrench that pay-it-forward mentality into our culture that hopefully will continue forever.”

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Spirit of the season

Teamwork was on display as players worked together across Canada to give back to their communities

Madison Koekkoek
|
January 22, 2021

Over the holidays, hockey teams from coast to coast to coast did what hockey teams do best. They led and rallied around important initiatives to give back and make meaningful differences in their communities, representing the true spirit of the season. Selflessness and creativity prove to be at the core of the hockey community, and Hockey Canada is proud to highlight several stories from across the country.

“These stories show the power of individual athletes who come together as a team and realize the value and impact they can have to do good away from the rink,” says Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada. “People play hockey for a love of the game and they help others because they care. There may not be a more powerful combination of feelings than to love and care.”

BC Hockey

Tri Cities Female Ice Hockey Association U11 C2 team came up with the idea to host a skate-a-thon this year, quickly rallying 10 other teams as challengers and raising over $25,000 for a local non-profit charity. Great work, team!

READ FULL STORY at bchockey.net

Hockey Alberta

Local teams in Alberta wouldn’t let the many obstacles of 2020 hold them back. Holiday hampers, bottle drive fundraisers, food donations and stockings for seniors were just a few of the many ways Alberta’s players gave back during the holiday season.

FULL STORY at Hockey Gives Back Across Alberta.

Hockey New Brunswick

Four teams from the Oromocto Minor Hockey Association banded together to make a donation to the Oromocto Public Hospital. The U15 Fury, Havoc and Rockets, and U13 Thunder joined forces with some generous friends of the local hockey association to help make Christmas a little brighter for both patients and staff.

Forty-seven individual gift bags for patients and six baskets overflowing with luxury items for the units were collected and donated. Although the kids didn’t get to visit the patients as a group like in the past, they all had a hand in contributing towards this wonderful gesture.

Ontario Hockey Federation

The Humber Valley Sharks and North Toronto entered a friendly competition to see who could raise the most money for local food banks. Over $25,000 was raised for the Daily Bread Food Bank and food banks across the Greater Toronto Area.

The U11 Toronto Eagles are walking across Canada in a virtual step-count contest to raise money for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

 

 

COVID-19 didn’t stop the Sarnia Legionnaires Hockey Club from holding its annual Penny Lilley Memorial Wooly Toss. The Wooly Toss is held during the first home game each December and sees fans toss winter wear onto the ice after the first Legionnaires goal is scored.

At this year’s event – led by Legionnaires director Terry Lilley and his daughter Brooke – fans donated over 1,300 hats, mittens and scarves that were collected for various local charities for pre-Christmas distribution. In addition, $1,500 was raised and used to purchase gift cards for those in need.

 

 

 

 

Members of the Komoka Kings helped brighten the day of Johnny Hall, a fan battling leukemia, by bringing the youngster some of his favourite things – hockey, fire trucks and the Grinch. The team also volunteered at the Komoka Foodland food and toy donation event.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fort Erie Meteors decided to purchase one gift per player to give to a family in need. The players enjoyed the experience of being involved in the community and had fun wrapping the presents themselves.

 

 

 

Helping Hands - EMC Gives Back

 

The Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs kept busy over the holiday season. The local hockey association has a mentorship program in place that paired the U14 and U18 teams. In a typical year, to bond and build camaraderie, the teams would hold a few practices together, cheer each other on at games and do some community service together.

 

 

 

 

This season has been different for so many reasons. The teams haven’t been able to practice together, let alone play games with spectators, but the Chiefs still felt they wanted to do what they could to give back to their community.   

The U14 and U18 teams reached out to a local church and each sponsored four families in need. The teams purchased gifts for the children (toys, books, toiletries, gift cards to the mall) and grocery gift cards for each family. Each item on the list provided by the church was fulfilled. Each gift was wrapped and delivered.

 

 

 

Hockey Nova Scotia

 

Despite the fundraising challenges posed by the pandemic, teams from the Glace Bay Minor Hockey Association found a way to brighten the holidays of families in Cape Breton by donating $1,400 to the Christmas Crew, a group that provides hundreds of grocery orders to needy families. Teams from the association also helped out their local food bank by donating several bags of non-perishable goods and other necessities.

 

 

 

 

During the holiday season, teams from the Dartmouth Minor Hockey Association stepped up to make significant contributions to groups like Feeding Others of Dartmouth Society’s Margaret’s House, a charitable organization that provides thousands of free meals each month to adults. Other teams from the association joined the Metro East Inferno Female Hockey Association and the Cole Harbour Wolfpack (Major U18) to collect gifts for families.

 

Hockey Quebec

 

Pier-Alexandre Poulin, head coach of the Condors du Cégep Beauce-Appalaches, organized a team building activity for hockey and football players of the Condors’ school-based organization. He reached out to Moisson Beauce, a regional food bank in the Beauce region in Quebec. Players had the opportunity to prepare food baskets before Christmas and were made aware of Moisson’s various community activities. Players enjoyed giving back and have decided it’s something they would like to continue each year.

 

Condors' Give Back (en français)

Hockey P.E.I.

 

The Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Knights gave back to the community in many ways over the holidays: donating food to the food bank, collecting clothing donations, making coffee deliveries, collecting firewood, baking cookies and so much more. Watch their video and feel inspired by their kindness.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations and thank you to these hockey teams and more who gave back this holiday season. Your positive impacts in your communities have inspired us all to make a difference.

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Warming hearts and heads

A simple idea – toques from old hockey socks – became a labour of love for three friends, and a way for the hockey community to give back

Madison Koekkoek
|
December 21, 2020

The hockey community is known for its propensity to rise to the occasion, to pull up its proverbial socks and do what needs to be done. From players, to parents, to volunteers, to fans … the notion of giving back and getting involved is engrained in the game.

“It’s super important for us [to be involved] because we try to instill good morals for our son, Liam,” says hockey dad Justen McGillis of Angus, Ont. “To get him to understand at an early age that helping others and doing nice things and getting out there and being active in the community is a good thing,”

Now, Justen and Liam are not just pulling up their socks but leveraging the hockey community to collect socks in the name of giving back to the homeless.

Liam, 6, alongside his friend Fynn, 7, led an initiative in November to collect as many pairs of socks as they could. They procured a local sports shop to collect at and were able to solicit donations. They lost count, but guess they collected between 750 and 1,000 socks, enough for six very full garbage bags to donate to Toques from the Heart.

The notion of warming hearts and heads was started by Toques from the Heart founders, Matthew Milne, Casey Rogan and Matt Carter, three McMaster University students who make toques from old hockey socks. For each one purchased, one is given to someone experiencing homelessness.

On the same day Liam and Fynn collected their donated socks in late November, they took to the streets in Hamilton to distribute 170 of the hockey-sock toques to the homeless. Justen McGillis was proud of the look in Liam’s eyes when he handed a toque to someone in need, understanding the impact of his involvement. “Our hopes were that in the future he can look back and realize the impact of what he’s doing. I’m not sure he fully grasps it right now.”

McGillis first connected with Toques from the Heart on Instagram and was instantly attracted to what it stood for and how he and his young son could get involved.

The ever-Canadian idea of a toque made from a hockey sock came about as one may expect. “I was just messing around after practice one day and I put a sock on my head. My mom, who is an avid sewer, said ‘Oh, I’ll turn that into a toque for you.’ I wore it around, wore it to school and that idea stuck with me,” says Milne.

He talked about wracking his brain for a greater purpose for the homemade headwear. So he brought it up to Rogan. “We talked about [doing] something to help gain experience and also help people in the same process,” Rogan says.

Community support and sustainability are driving the operation for the trio. “[Socks] sit in your basement until eventually your parents throw them in the trash, and we’ve been able to take those and not only repurpose them into something new, but then support someone in need,” says Carter, “so the community is our biggest factor, and continuing to buy toques and donate socks and basically get the word out is how we’re going to be able to help as many people as possible.”

In order to get the word out, the group has leaned into influencer campaigns with a grassroots approach, sending promotional toques to Instagram accounts of minor hockey players shooting pucks in their basement or their backyard.

Parents jumping on board as a huge driver of the initiative didn’t come as a surprise to Rogan. He says that growing up, he “saw the community aspect of it, going out to practices in the morning, all the parents being connected like my dad; he was a coach on a team, so he was very involved.”

McGillis knows there’s no other driver, no other community, that has the same impact as hockey. “It’s got that family atmosphere right, my son’s six, going on seven, and I was the head coach for his Timbits team, so what I get from hockey from day one is just the family, friends – we actually have really good friends that we kept in contact with from the original team. It’s just the family atmosphere and how everybody rallies together when someone’s in need. For us, it’s just has a really warm, family feeling to it, which is what draws us to hockey.”

The McGillises have also since recruited two-time Olympic gold medallist Haley Irwin to get on board with the cause. Liam sold Irwin a couple toques after they shared the ice one day.

Irwin knows that when minor hockey players get involved in their community, the impact they can have is significant not only on themselves as they grow, but on the causes they collectively stand behind.

“They have ability to unite their community by bringing people together to give back, raise awareness, spread joy, and be leaders,” she says. “The impact is positive and can last for years to come!”

Carter played hockey since before he could walk, he says, but developing the toques has “reintroduced the entire hockey community to me again but in a different light now; I’m working with the kids that are between the ages of eight and 15 where I used to play.”

Milne echoes those sentiments: “Hockey is honestly my favourite sport, such a positive community-building experience and just so much fun to play.”

Next steps for Toques from the Heart is expanding Canada-wide.

As for the McGillises? “We’re going to continue collecting socks over the year for next season, our hopes is to every year give them a hand prior to Christmas with donations and selling toques,” Justen says. “Getting the word out to help people realize what it is because it’s truly a great cause.”

Tip of the toque to you, Liam. Using these unique times away from the rink to rally around the greater good of the community. Leadership, selflessness, and empathy are the makings of a great teammate.

For more information on Toques from the Heart, visit toquesfromtheheart.ca .

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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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