Community Clubs Hockey

Hockey rallies to make positive impact off the ice

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By Dan Plouffe

In the past few years especially, news stories on hockey certainly haven’t all showcased the best side of the sport in Canada. But in the past two weeks, Ottawa has hosted a pair of events that showed hockey can have a very positive influence away from the rink.

Through an April 28 day-long tournament at the University of Ottawa, Hockey Helps The Homeless granted over $50,000 to Shepherds of Good Hope.

Participants needed to collect a minimum of $500 of donations for the cause, while Matt Shackell topped the individual fundraising chart at $3,706.00.

The fundraising totals were the most important numbers to watch, while the scoreboard was secondary. Like on the outdoor rink, slapshots were outlawed at the tournament (even though the event drew some serious university and professional players – Ryan Spooner, who played nine NHL seasons, was one of several big names on the Capital Strength roster).

It was the first time Hockey Helps The Homeless visited Ottawa, though the organization has raised over $21 million through similar events in other parts of Canada since 1996. HHTH has had over 200 former professional hockey players or Olympians take part, with each one paired up with participating teams at the tournaments.

In Ottawa, the after-lunch roundtable featured Andre Roy, Georges Laracque and Al Iafrate. Laracque is one of the main faces often seen at HHTH events.

The former Habs tough guy first got involved with the cause when he stayed outside overnight as part of a fundraiser in Montreal. but he kept up relationships with some of the individuals he met, often going for lunch with them. His drive to help grew further when he visited Haiti on multiple occasions after the earthquake and saw many people living on the street.

Laracque challenged everyone: “When you see a homeless person on the street, talk to them, spend time with them – they’re human beings also.”

On top of practically helping individuals experiencing homelessness, the Shepherds of Good Hope also work to reduce the stigma often associated with homelessness. Roughly 250 people a night stay in Shepherds’ shelter, but once they are able to access housing, very few return to the street.

The week before the tournament, Shepherds celebrated moving 57 people into supportive housing.

“We’re super proud of that, and we’re also super proud of how our community’s come together like they have (for the tournament),” Shepherds President & CEO Deirdre Freiheit said in her remarks to participants, highlighting the many contributions of staff, volunteers, fundraisers and donors.

“It really does take a village, it takes a whole community to do this kind of work, and you’re all a big part of it, so a big thank you to everyone,” she added.

After the event, Hockey Helps The Homeless organizers wrote on Facebook: “Ottawa presented some of the most passionate, caring and hardworking volunteers and hockey players we have ever seen. We are already so excited to be back in this city next year bigger and better.”

R.I.S.E. Academy hosts The Hockey Summit on Diversity and Belonging

Another recent local event that made a mark beyond the ice was The Hockey Summit on Diversity and Belonging, hosted by R.I.S.E. Academy on April 22.

The Saturday summit was wrapped around a three-day tournament at Carleton University, which included participants from The Boys and Girls Club, The Door Youth Centre and Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre.

The event’s aim was to “engage in great hockey and meaningful conversation about the need for change in the sport that we love.”

The summit brought together numerous individuals involved in initiatives to make hockey more inclusive, and also featured many youth voices speaking about their experiences in hockey.

The panel discussions are available on youtube and an article by the Ottawa Citizen/Sun‘s Ken Warren gave an overview of the event and the topics discussed.

This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ weekly Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at:

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