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A tip of the hat to Hockey Talks

by Kelli Gustafson / Edmonton Oilers

Video: COMMUNITY | Hockey Talks Hats

"The hats are back by popular demand!" exclaimed Natalie Minckler, Executive Director of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF).

On Saturday, February 20, the Oilers hosted their fourth annual Hockey Talks night with the return of the much anticipated Hockey Talks Hat Campaign. Joining forces with other Canadian NHL teams, the Oilers have been committed to promoting mental health awareness for the month of February. 

Fans lined up to purchase a limited edition Oilers Hockey Talks Hat, eager to reveal the hidden autograph behind the Hockey Talks sticker. Each player signed approximately 175 hats.

"I bought seven before I finally got McDavid," said Nadine Samycia, Executive Director, CASA Foundation.

The hats went faster than they were signed, selling out of all 4,000 before the puck dropped between the Oilers and Avalanche. 

Teaming up with the Oilers Ladies, the EOCF have hosted mental health charities and foundations at home games throughout the month. Each foundation was given the opportunity to set-up information booths on the concourse, promoting mental health awareness for the fans in attendance.

Some of these groups included the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, Lois Hole Hospital for Women (supported by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation), Canadian Mental Health Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta, among others.

By dedicating this month to Hockey Talks, the Oilers aim to resolve misconceptions surrounding mental illness, as well as raise funds to support mental health services. Fans were even encouraged to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #HockeyTalks.  

The number of 12 to 19-yr-old Canadians at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million. #HockeyTalks pic.twitter.com/8T2rf8TF3F

- Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 20, 2016


"We all know someone who is affected by mental health," said Oilers Lady Lauren Rodych. "So it's great that tonight not only are we talking about it, but we're also raising funds for the CASA Foundation." 

Rodych, along with the other Oilers Ladies, spent Saturday evening on the concourse selling the Oilers hats for only $20 each. Proceeds from the hats went towards CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Foundation, and the EOCF.

@EdmontonOilers @CASA_FDN @cmcdavid97 @Oil_Foundation thank you for making me and everyone not feel alone. #HockeyTalks

- em (@kreidizzIe) February 19, 2016

"27 per cent of Alberta's kindergarten children are experiencing developmental difficulties. One in five children and youth will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder," said Samycia.

Photo by Marko Ditkun / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

"CASA is a key resource for families and a key provider of mental health services for children in our province."

The CASA Foundation is a non-profit organization, providing mental health services to over 4,000 children, adolescents, and their families within Edmonton and Northern/Central Alberta. Proceeds raised from the Hockey Talks Hats campaign will help benefit the CASA Foundation's Adolescent Day Program, outfitting the gymnasium at the new CASA Center opening this Fall. The program is designed to provide academic support, and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of adolescents who are unable to attend a community school because of emotional, psychological and/or behavioural problems.

"The opportunity for CASA to receive support from the Edmonton Oilers to promote mental wellness and bring awareness to a cause that is greatly needed in our community is very important," added Smycia. "This support will assist CASA to work towards building healthier minds, forging stronger family networks, and encourage thriving communities."

Fans not in attendance Saturday will still have the opportunity to support CASA Foundation and the EOCF through the Hockey Talks Online Auction, which will run from Friday, February 26, until Thursday, March 10.

@EdmontonOilers I don't know what it is like to live with a mental illness, but I am here for people like my great uncle. #HockeyTalks

- reanne kennedy (@reannekennedy17) February 10, 2016

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