Inside every kid lies a need to be active. Inside every kid lies limitless potential. Participation in minor sports allows kids to fulfill that burning desire to move – to run, jump and skate with their peers – and also opens a lane toward reaching unthinkable heights. Some paths to take part in sport are free of obstacles, while others feature roadblocks along the way.
The GTHL, along with its governing body Hockey Canada, have taken measures to ensure a smooth journey for the future of our game. After all, keeping the life blood of this operation – the kids that become our community leaders – on the ice will have confounding effects on not only their path in life, but also on the growth of hockey within our country.
The GTHL, regarded as the largest minor hockey league in the world, has answered the call, enacting new programs to combat this issue. The latest such program is the GTHL Rookie Camp presented by Scotiabank, a collaboration with the Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club, an organization that helps get kids involved in the community.
The initiative, which started in early March, has provided about kids with free equipment and on-ice sessions. Giving kids a chance to play hockey while also promoting a healthy, active lifestyle, are at the foundation of the learn-to-play program.
The end goal? Having all Rookie Camp participants signed up with a local hockey team in the very near future.
“We really want to open the eyes of these kids to something they’ve never done before,” said Simone Spike, Children’s Coordinator of the Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club. “Our partnership with this program will allow these kids to do something different and experience activities beyond their neighborhood.”
Visiting the rink for one of the 60-minute sessions, it was clear that the love of hockey is in full bloom. The kids took the ice with exuberance and eagerly soaked up every word from instructors, trying their best to perfect the skills that will, if all goes according to plan, soon become second nature. The instructors, who were equally as enthusiastic, took pride in imparting their hockey wisdom to the future of our game.
“It’s a blessing for the kids,” said lead supervisor Michelle Francis. “They are getting it all for free and they are so grateful.” Francis believes the mentorship that comes along with learning a new sport helps teach kids to listen and be respectful, all while they have fun being active.
Jeff Campbell, Initiation Program coordinator for the GTHL and lead instructor of the grassroots initiative, echoed similar sentiments about the success of the Rookie Camp.
“They are loving this. Once you throw the competition part into it, they go as fast as they can,” said Campbell, who has marveled at both the positive progress and attitude the kids have demonstrated at the rink. As for the future of this program, Campbell says the goal is to expand to include more kids, incorporating more Boys and Girls Clubs within the GTA.
The combination of the GTHL Rookie Camp and Hockey Canada’s Initiation Program – designed to help five and six-year-olds learn basic skills – is sure to encourage the growth of our game from the grassroots level.
At the end of the day, the fate of Canada’s game rests on the shoulders of the communities that have been in danger of losing it. Programs such as Rookie Camp are a reminder that the love and passion for hockey is there, it just sometimes needs a little help to shine through.