William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Sarah Thompson, a senior forward on Syracuse University’s NCAA Division I women’s hockey team who founded Sticks Together, a nonprofit organization that has exposed the game to children in underserved communities in South Africa and Argentina.

Sarah Thompson wanted to use her visibility as a Syracuse University women’s hockey player for something more than signing a name, image and likeness deal that allows NCAA student-athletes to make money.

“When COVID hit and the NIL stuff came out … everyone was talking about signing deals and making themselves a brand,” Thompson said. “For me, I just want to use my platform to be able to give back to something bigger than myself.”

The 22-year-old forward from Ottawa established Sticks Together, a nonprofit foundation that aims to provide resources to give children in underprivileged communities around the world the chance to learn and play hockey.


The organization, through partnerships and sponsorships, collected sticks and other equipment for use on Thomspon-led hockey missions to Argentine in summer 2022 and South Africa last summer.

“I have long-term plans for this,” Thompson said. “The next trip I’m planning is to the Philippines, just bringing the sport to as many places and children as possible. Maybe it’s not just about growing the game of hockey but giving them opportunities to fall in love with something, because they really don’t have many resources.”

Thompson’s work earned her a nomination for the Hockey Humanitarian Award for the second consecutive season. The award is presented annually to the college hockey player who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team, but to the community at-large through leadership in volunteerism.


The award recipient will be announced April 12 during the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“For me, it was, like, ‘I want to make something bigger,” Thompson said. “So I thought about how I could do that. I was supposed to go on a volunteer trip but with COVID, you know, everything was crazy. So I tried to think about how I could increase my impact and do something bigger than just showing up.

"And I thought, ‘What if I went out there and taught hockey, brought hockey to kids that have probably never seen it, ever?’ That’s kind of where the idea stemmed from. And I’m the type of kid that once I get an idea, the wheels start turning and don’t stop.”

Thompson and Madison Primeau, a former Syracuse teammate who is the daughter of former NHL forward Wayne Primeau and niece of former NHL forward Keith Primeau, traveled to Muizenberg, South Africa, May 15-26, 2023, and taught 400 children at Steenberg Primary School how to play hockey.

It followed Sticks Together’s inaugural trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 16-June 6, 2022, where Thompson and Tracey Edson, Syracuse’s director of hockey operations and former team captain, introduced hockey to 40 students at the Amarilla School.


“I can say the kids really loved what was happening there, they really enjoyed it,” said Daniel Jansen, principal at the Steenberg school near Cape Town. “With kids, irrespective of the part of the world you go to, if you introduce them to something, they are like ducks to water, from the smallest one to the biggest one.

“But most of all, it’s not just the sport you bring, it’s the type of person. Madison and Sarah ... they love the sport and because of the passion they have for the sport of hockey, and because of the passion they have for the sport of hockey, it rubbed off on the kids.”

On each trip, Thompson arrived with sticks and gear provided by donations to three Ottawa Play It Again Sports stores after district manager Rob Lavoie met Thompson through a mutual friend. The stores also used the proceeds of equipment sales to help fund the trips.

“A lot of people have good ideas, not all of them see through to execution,” Lavoie said. “I could tell Sarah was a little bit different. Her drive, her determination, which serves her pretty well on the ice, is pretty evident when you speak to her. I just kind of offered our help in any way we could, which started out on a small scale and then has kind of grown a little bit over the years as her project has grown.”


CARHA Hockey, a resource and service provider for recreational hockey in Canada, helped sponsor the South Africa trip. Robert Morris University’s women’s hockey team, who Madison Primeau now plays for, partnered with Syracuse to promote Sticks Together when the teams played at RMU on Nov. 4.

“We’re a huge advocate for Sarah’s program,” CARHA Hockey executive director Lori Lopez said. “Sticks together is doing great things in communities that certainly don’t have what many of us Canadians have access to. What her goal is, it's truly remarkable and I admire her for what she's doing.”

Thompson is keeping busy in her senior season at Syracuse, where she has six points (five goals, one assist) in 26 games on the ice, and preparing for the Philippines trip.

She’s said she’s weighing whether to seek an extra year of NCAA eligibility that could put her in a position to crack a Professional Women’s Hockey League roster.

If that doesn’t happen, she’ll put the sports management degree she’ll earn to good use.

“I think, in some way, I’ll always want to be involved in hockey,” said Thompson, who was an intern for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse. “I can certainly see myself working for an NHL team or just being involved in hockey or coaching in some capacity.”