|Senators forward Peter Regin helps a youngster enjoy the fun during the launch of Canadian Tire Jumpstart's I Love To Skate program at Jules Morin Park in Lowertown (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Sunshine and bright blue skies, mixed with a serious bite of cold in the air ... an ideal Canadian winter day, one might suggest.
In other words, exactly the right occasion for the launch of the I Love to Skate program, presented by Canadian Tire Jumpstart in partnership with the Sens Foundation and City of Ottawa. The bitter chill in the air hardly seemed to matter, however, to the 20 youngsters from York Street Public School who hit the outdoor rink at Jules Morin Park in Lowertown.
Decked out in new toques, mittens and scarves and wearing Jumpstart jerseys, they squealed with delight while zipping around an ice surface that glistened brightly under the rays of ample sunlight that bathed this day of fun. Joining them on the ice was Senators forward Peter Regin
, who admitted afterward that it's a scene rarely played out in his homeland of Denmark.
"It's not cold enough and there's isn't any ice long enough during the winters," Regin said when asked if Monday's outdoor skate reminded him of his own more youthful days. "We have a cottage right by a lake and there's ice (during) some winters for a short while, so we skated there a little bit, but not too much."
No such story here, as any Ottawan will tell you. Skating is a local passion, to be sure, and thanks to the I Love to Skate program — which aims to bring the activity to 400 youngsters in "priority neighbourhoods" throughout the city — more children can now get into the game.
"To have a partnership with Canadian Tire Jumpstart and the city to make sure we can maximize the amount of kids that are getting on the ice with skates, with helmets and learning one of Canada's great passions is fabulous," said Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson. "These kids wouldn't have this opportunity otherwise ... We're trying to cover as much of the city as possible and get as many kids out skating as we can."
Canadian Tire dealers across the city have been collecting new and gently used equipment to help support the program. Children identified through an application process to take part in I Love to Skate also receive a voucher to purchase the necessary equipment, with City of Ottawa skating instructors providing hands-on expertise.
"We're honoured to be able to be helping," said Dave McClenahan, a Canadian Tire dealer and founder of the local Jumpstart program. "We think it's a natural fit with Canadian Tire. We've always been involved with families and we think these young kids really need this. It's for the kids."
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson noted the city "wants to get kids more actively involved, get them skating in the wonderful winters that we have and the community parks and skating rinks that we have."
Regin, whose Senators had a day off from the rink, was also happy to lend a hand.
"We all want to be a big part of the community," he said. "I think the whole organization is trying to get out as much as possible. (Today) it doesn't feel like a job. It's a lot of fun to get out to events like this and see kids and see how happy they are and excited they are.
"It was a beautiful day, so (the cold) didn't feel so bad out there. It was a fun day."