Students and co-ordinators in J.A. Laird Elementary’s Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) program were stunned to learn that within a month of the program’s start, they would be receiving a donation of new hockey equipment.
The donation of 24 new sets of hockey equipment, along with two sets of goalie equipment, was presented on February 22 at the school, with Laird students in the HCSA program carrying out the new equipment bags during an assembly. The donation was given by Goals & Dreams, a National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) fund created to assist volunteer-based hockey programs that help economically disadvantaged children play hockey.
Former NHL hockey goaltender and broadcaster with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Kelly Hrudey, was present to address the students and talk about Goals & Dreams, the HCSA, and answer students’ questions.
“This was actually one of my first opportunities to be at the event where they actually gave out the equipment,” said Hrudey, who has visited over 250 schools nation-wide for the Goals & Dreams fund and HCSA. “For me to see that, as a former PA member and now a family member with their alumni, I don’t know if I can truly put into words how proud I was to see the school get their new equipment, and knowing the work that went into it and the families that can’t afford the equipment, I really enjoyed it. The kids were so well-behaved and prepared and they had a lot of questions for me after the presentation. It was just really fun to be a part of.”
The HCSA is a school sports program in partnership with Hockey Canada and its 13 member branches. The program creates equal hockey opportunities for student players by helping children of all ages and skill levels, male and female, improve their individual technical and tactical skills, help boost confidence and self-esteem, physical fitness, and help motivate children towards academic achievement through a balance of academics and athletics within the school system.
Daphne Neal, a teacher at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) and on and off-ice co-ordinator and instructor at J.A. Laird’s HCSA program, first brought the program to Invermere.
“I had heard about [HCSA] and wanted to bring it here, so I started researching other schools’ programs and the HCSA model and philosophy really fit,” said Neal, who first brought the HCSA program to DTSS three years ago. “After bringing it to the high school, a parent approached me and asked if it could be brought to J.A. Laird.”
The HCSA program was included at J.A. Laird in September 2010. A proposal for new equipment had been filed and submitted to the Goals & Dreams fund and was answered in October 2010.
“We were so excited to be able to bring that gear to children who wanted to play,” said Neal. “We were excited to be able to provide gear for kids who didn’t have any.”
“A lot of the players who end up having pro careers were like many of the families that we may have visited today,” said Hrudey. “Great people, but unfortunately hockey is a very expensive sport and in some cases the family can’t afford the equipment for their sons and daughters, or if they have multiple children it’s so expensive. The players recognize that because they come from families like that, so I know why their initiatives were, years ago when they started [Goals & Dreams], ‘let’s help as many families as we can possibly help by getting the equipment that they need to alleviate some of the costs and let’s give back’.”
“You have to take the good and the bad, because you’ll have highs and lows, and don’t beat yourself up too much when there happens to be a low moment, everyone goes through it,” said Hrudey on advice to young hockey players. “I’ve played with some of the best hockey players to have every played the game and everybody has had faults and everybody has had times where they haven’t been very productive. Just enjoy it, have fun fun with it, don’t play if you’re not having a lot of fun, and enjoy the ride.”