(TORONTO) -- The CBC has done Hockey Day in Canada for five years now and the original focus was to have all six Canadian teams playing against one another. Then it became not just "NHL" Hockey Day in Canada, but about all hockey in and all across Canada.
So they decided to expand the programming on this particular day. It's grown to that. It's grown from something fairly contrived and fairly orchestrated to something that is real and interesting.
| Dryden guests with billeting-buddy Michael Bell and Ron McLean (More Photos). |
I think it is a pretty good reflection on the fact that there is games going on all over the country with kids, parents, coaches, minor hockey rinks, cups of coffee and early mornings. It takes in what is a pretty substantial experience across the country from the first of October until early March and showcases for one day.
What has developed, especially in the last couple of years is holding the festivities in a small town. I think it really found its legs last year in Iqaluit, Nunavut and again this year in Shaunovan, Sask.
There's not really much participation of NHL teams outside of the games themselves, but we wanted to take part. We've taken part quite a lot, especially in the last two years. Really, we do far more than any other NHL team.
In that small town it matters that the NHL world is aware of them and treats them with respect and importance and it does so by being there. CBC does it by being there. Ron McLean and Don Cherry and the whole production is there, so an NHL team can and should be represented as well.
There's always a fundraising component on these weekends because therein lies the focal point of what lasting benefit might there be in this town? In Shaunovan they need an arena so we brought along all kinds of auction items. In the end more than $10,000 was raised to help make this a reality.
By being there it's a reminder that we do share something in common. That being NHL hockey and minor hockey. We have far more in common than differences. It's for ourselves to be reminded of that and it's for others to feel that they are not from two different worlds.
| Michael Bell (centre-front) and some friends arrive in Shaunovan with the Cup in tow (More Photos). |
People in small towns can't believe that you're there. They can't believe that you want to be there. Once you are, it's not to come as stars, as people who don't belong, but people that are there because they want to be there.
One of the things that is neat for me is when I go to these places, that it's much more fun to billet than it is to stay in a hotel.
So I stayed with a family from Shaunovan, which had two kids, 13 and 11. The 11-year-old had to vacate his room for me and all of a sudden I'm sleeping in the room of an 11-year-year old boy with all of the photos, posters on the wall and trophies. It was like the room you had yourself as a kid or the room your son had.
In going out to Shaunovan we were sharing in a very Canadian experience, so we thought why not share that with a kid from the Hockey in the Neighbourhood program. The idea is to give kids from the inner city a chance to play hockey when the get very little chance to. There are basically no covered rinks so we work with Toronto Parks & Recreation to put this together.
We asked all of the people involved to recommend a kid who just deserves it. A kid who is there every Saturday, who works at it, helps out and who has no motivation to do any of those things other than that's just the way he is.
We choose Michael Bell. He lives with his Grandfather, Allan Moreau. They came out with us and billeted with the Hunter family, who live just outside Shaunovan.
Michael dropped the puck at a Swift Current Broncos vs. Medicine Hat Tigers game. Other than that he just had an experience a couple of thousand miles away from home and I think he enjoyed it a lot.
They are two people who have an experience they have never had before and otherwise would have had.
We put on a clinic. Small towns don't have the same opportunities to have significant clinics with their coaches and for their kids. It works really well. It good for the coaches, it's good for the kids. It gives them and idea of how else things can be done.
The concept continues to grow and if anything can be done to help grassroots hockey in this country, it should be. " features