By: Logan Lockhart | Sports Journalism Student, Centennial College
In the spring of 2019, Steve Whitaker went to work at Toronto’s Baycrest Public School knowing his physical education program would provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for his students because on that day, they spent time at a hockey rink, and not in a small gymnasium.
Whitaker is the founder of the Sport Wellness and Achievement Network (SWAN), which has given kids in high-priority Toronto neighbourhoods aged 5-13 the opportunity to participate in sports after school since 2016.
But it became more than that on select days in the spring of 2019 when students at Baycrest Public School, Flemington Public School, and Lawrence Heights Middle School were exposed to ice hockey during school hours.
A day of hockey for the students wouldn’t be possible however, without the support of local hockey organizations — one of which being the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL).
“Through SWAN and through managing to make connections with the GTHL, we had GTHL coaches come out for our last skating day,” said Whitaker. “We participated in the GTHL rookie camp program. We got bussed up to The Pond at Downsview Park for eight weeks and the kids got equipment that they can use, and if they registered for house league programs, they can keep their equipment. It was huge for all of (the kids) ”