Equipment fitted for Goals and Dreams 0
Just as there are people living in and around the Crowsnest Pass lucky enough to play hockey growing up, there are those kids who have never had the chance to pick up a stick-be it for financial or other reasons.
All youth should have the opportunity to try Canada's sport and a program created by the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) has helped local kids realize that dream.
With forty-four kids of all ages from across the region selected for this year's exciting Goals and Dreams Cup, the equipment has now been fitted and youth are ready to hit the ice with NHL players at the Coleman Sportsplex on Aug. 16.
Earlier this year, the NHLPA reached out to Wes Rypien Jr. and the Rypien family in an attempt to honour the lasting legacy of former Vancouver Canuck, Rick Rypien, who passed away last year.
Fifty sets of brand new hockey equipment have been donated to the cause-six of which will be retained by the local KidSport chapter.
"It's not just a sense of pride, it's a sense of giving back in Rick's spirit and legacy," explained hockey coach and volunteer Chad Petrone.
"That's what it's all about. We're trying to maintain his spirit by helping out amongst the community."
Though kids were excited to try on the equipment, the fervor will be strongest during the Goals and Dreams events-as NHL players will be suiting up alongside the lucky youth involved after acting as coaches and mentors.
"These kids get to skate with some of the NHL players and it's a good opportunity to play a game a lot of us were fortunate enough to play growing up," explained hockey coach and volunteer Rory Snider.
Alongside the Rick Rypien Memorial Hockey Camp-August 13 to 17-one of the highlights will be the Goals and Dreams Celebrity game after the cup finishes.
After acting as mentors and coaches in the cup, well known NHLers Kevin Bieksa, Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk and Kris Versteeg will play alongside the kids.
"It's just for these kids to be able to come out on the ice and skate with some of the NHL players-guys who have played elite hockey," Snider said. "They're down to earth guys who have taken time out of their busy careers."
All proceeds and funds from the NHL celebrity game will go directly to the Ricky Ryp Foundation, set up by members of Rypien's family. Sam Marra, Tracey Linderman, Rory Snider, Chad Petrone, Joanne Drain and Kevin Petovelo stepped up to help out the local foundation.
"(The kids are) going to be playing with some of the local kids, some of the kids who knew Rick and some of those kids who have had some success playing Junior A or WHL and put on a game for the crowd," Snider said.
Petrone knew the Goals and Dreams Cup was designed not only for those youth who could not afford to play organized hockey, but also those kids who have just never had a stick in hand.
"I think that's where the sense of pride comes in and the sense of giving back to these kids and the kids who have never had the opportunity to play," he said.
Joanne Drain, chairman of the local KidSport program, knew both the Goals and Dreams committee and KidSport are accomplishing the same goal.
"I feel that sport is very important to children, both physically and mentally," she said. "I think every child should have that opportunity to participate in organized sport."
Playing with elite level hockey players will indeed be a special time in these young peoples' lives and Drain hopes they remember it for a long time.
"Those kids are going to be so overwhelmed by these hockey players and I hope they enjoy every minute of it because they may never have this opportunity again," she said.
The Celebrity Game takes to the ice at 8 p.m. at the Coleman Sportsplex on Aug. 16 and tickets are being sold at the Sears as well as Copy Magic for $10.