2022 bhm ohf seaside hockey

The Seaside mission

A new association in the Greater Toronto Hockey League is reaching out to underrepresented communities to let them know – hockey is for you, too

Lee Boyadjian
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February 11, 2022
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The task they set themselves was not an easy one; three Black men trying to start a hockey awakening. Make the game not only more diverse, but more open. Spread the love of hockey to kids and their families. Help everyone feel hockey culture, Canadian culture, has a place for them.

To say Kirk Brooks, his son Nathaniel Brooks and NHL alumnus Anthony Stewart have been successful in that task is an understatement. Seaside Hockey may be the first step in revolutionizing the game.

“When it came to hockey, I basically just showed up to the game to support and I didn’t even realize how different it was in terms of the race aspect,” says Seaside Hockey parent Anike Arthur. “I didn’t think anything of it until it was really in the forefront to see these kids out there who have the abilities but just weren’t given opportunities.

“Imagine how many more opportunity there would be in the sport of hockey [for Black players] if this had happened earlier.”

Kirk Brooks thinks about that a lot. The Seaside founder has been working in the game for over 30 years, hosting camps and tournaments for Black players. Seaside is dedicated to Black players as well, though Brooks says it is open to all who want to learn the game.

“We have families with Seaside … who are from a diverse background, and nobody has ever asked them whether their kids were interested in playing hockey,” Brooks explains.

“Hockey is marketed to hockey, and we need to change that.”

The concept and motto for Seaside Hockey – Breaking Through Expectations – has been slowly building over the last few years. With every racially charged incident he witnessed first-hand or watched on TV, Brooks was increasingly motivated to create an association dedicated to underserved communities. He finally put in an application with the Greater Toronto Hockey League last season and received the charter in late June 2021. Three months later, 120 players were registered and outfitted head-to-toe, even if the parents didn’t know how to dress the kids yet.

“They had volunteers there helping us lace them up properly and putting on the hockey gear,” laughs Dainah Ramsay at the recent memory. “It was like an assembly line to send them off onto the ice.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m holding my breath,’ as he was stepping out onto the ice.”

Ramsay’s five-year-old son, Moses, had started playing mini-sticks in the family living room during the various pandemic-related school breaks over the last two years. When she got a call from a former co-worker about a new hockey association, she sent her husband and son to look into it.

They came home busting with excitement and Moses stepped onto the ice for the first time a week later.

“We can’t explain enough how passionate Moses is,” Ramsay says. “We are commitment to growing his career through Seaside.

“I can’t say enough about them.”

Before their introduction to Seaside, neither the Ramsay nor Arthur families had much interest in organized hockey. Makio and Mikhail Arthur had tried once but didn’t take to the cold rink or early-morning practices. Now they spend the week counting the days until the next Saturday or Sunday ice session.

Arthur commends Seaside for helping her boys fall in love with the game.

“Knowing they didn’t have to be the best at it, they’re still at the learning stages,” Arthur says, explaining that the entire association has been focused on skill development and skating skills through the first portion of the season.

“It’s not competitive at all, it’s more encouraging.”

Brooks expects Seaside Hockey will continue to grow, saying it could have 200 kids playing this season, but additional support is needed to ensure it can outfit any registrant who needs it. All to ensure not only the player is supported in their hockey journey, but also the whole family.

“If you're an immigrant to Canada or … minority of any color, we want to let you know that this game is for you … it’s a beautiful game,” Brooks says. “We just want more kids to be able to play the game which has always been my mission.

“More kids playing the game.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
[email protected]

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

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