Hockey fundraiser sets national record

Anthony Abbondanza
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Former NHL players, members of Canada’s Women’s National Team participate in charity tournament to benefit homelessness

When mixing sport and charity, the result can be rather astonishing – especially when that sport is Canada’s favourite winter pass-time.

Current and former professional hockey players join local Montrealers in a day-long tournament to benefit charitable organization.

Former NHL players, members of Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team, and local celebrities participated in the Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH) tenth annual tournament, last Friday at Sportsplexe 4 Glaces in Pierrefonds, raising a national record of just over $370,000.

For Caroline Ouellette, captain of the gold medal-winning women’s team in the Sochi Olympics and member of the Montreal Stars, HHTH is a chance to break the myths surrounding homelessness.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, stereotypes,” said Ouellette, in this her second HHTH event. “…Homelessness can be the result of someone close to you losing a loved one, their work. These are people you’d never imagine being in that situation.”

Ouellette’s Olympic teammate, Catherine Ward, said it’s important to end the critical judgement of those less fortunate.

Irrespective of Canada’s ranking among the world’s wealthiest economies, approximately 150,000 to 300,000 Canadians are homeless.

The role of athletes

Hockey Helps the Homeless is just one among countless sports-related charities in the country.

And according to Ouellette, mixing sport and fundraising is an effective way of garnering the attention of Canadians across the country for a worthy cause.

“As athletes, it’s a cause we can help with our support: to combine what we love with a great cause,” she said.

With the help of Ouellette, Ward, Beaconsfield’s Laurianne Rougeau, as well as Hockey Night in Canada panellist, PJ Stock, who played in Friday’s tournament, and other former professional hockey players, HHTH has raised over $6 million since its inception 10 years ago.

“We want to participate and grow this event. By people being here, they’ll have a great experience, talk to their friends about it and be back next year. That’s how it grows,” said Ouellette.

The money raised this year will help benefit the Old Brewery Mission, Benedict Labre House, St-James Drop In Centre and L’Avenue Inc.

West Island impact

The Canadian organization has already had an impact on one local organization.

Courtesy of HHTH, a white cube truck, worth an estimated $20,000 and labelled with an On Rock Ministries tag, was parked just outside the Sportsplexe 4 Glaces Friday afternoon.

Kim Reid, founder of the Pierrefonds-based food bank, said he contacted the Hockey Helps the Homeless last year for a cube truck, needed for pick-ups and deliveries.

“We got that truck for free. These guys helped us. I said ‘if there’s any way I can help you, I will’,” said Reid.

Not about to lace up his skates –which he hung up many years ago – Reid volunteered as a scorekeeper during the day-long tournament.

Now, the West Islander is asking for HHTH’s help once more.

On Rock is in need of a forklift and a commercial gas stove – worth a combined $20,000 – as its food bank experiences a larger demand after the Christmas season.

“They have a proposal in front of them that hopefully will be accepted,” he said.

Over 200 families are using the food bank every week, up 15 since the winter holidays.

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Organizations: NHL, National Women, Benedict Labre House

Geographic location: Canada, Pierrefonds, West Island

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