Friends, the facts on homelessness in Canada are alarming.
Every year 250,000 Canadians access homeless emergency services or sleep outside. 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. 50,000 people on any given night are considered “hidden homeless”: couch-surfing or sleeping in poor or unaffordable housing. 10% of families do not have enough money to meet their basic needs.
When the organizers of Hockey Helps the Homeless asked me to get involved in their annual Vancouver tournament, I jumped at the chance because I wanted to make a difference.
The event took place on Friday, November 27th at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena, where hockey players and hockey lovers alike from across the Lower Mainland teamed up to raise money for this great cause.
Originally I had been asked to emcee the dinner following the tournament. I was thrilled! But shortly after the initial invite, Robin Rivers – knowing I had played as a teen – asked if I would be willing to play on one of the ladies’ teams.
Me being me said, “No problem!”
Fun fact #1: Actors will always tell you they can do something then hustle like hell to figure out how to do it in time for the impending deadline!
I hung up the phone, knowing full well I had not played in over 10 years and did what any true professional would do: I called my dad. My dad, being my dad, sent me my old equipment. God I love that man!
The night before, while double-checking my equipment, I noticed that my helmet lacked a mask.
Fun fact #2: Ladies must all wear a full face mask to play. It saves your teeth, your nose and your eyes. Someone should really tell the NHL players that; namely Dan Hamhuis and Sidney Crosby. Ouch.
Upon further inspection I noticed that about 50% of my equipment was not mine.
He happened to have come in to town that day.
“I may have given your elbow pads to the neighbor and I think a few years back I gave our bank manager’s daughter your pants.”
Fun fact #3: This was at 9pm on a Thursday and I played in less than 12 hours.
Thank goodness Walmart was open late!
The team of ladies I was placed with was a mix of skill levels. I sat down in my cubby at the UBC Thunderbird Arena and began talking to a really nice lady with brown hair beside me. She reminded me of my good friend Lauren Stiver, who I had played hockey with at the University of Winnipeg. She was tall, very fit and extremely kind. She said that she was “okay” at the sport but was just there for the cause. How nice, I thought. I soon realized she was not only the nicest person in the room, but the most humble.
Our coach, the amazing former Vancouver Canucks sniper (and former part-owner of the Coquitlam Express) Darcy Rota came in to meet the team, turned to the brunette beside me and thanked our “pro” for coming out to play with us. Suddenly it dawned on me, “For heaven’s sake, she was none other than Rebecca Johnston from the Canadian Women’s Olympic Gold Medal Team in Sochi!” Turns out she was not only “okay,” she was freaking awesome!
Rebecca Johnston is a humble and talented genius.
The tournament was by far the most fun I had had in quite some time. It took a few shifts to get my legs back but by the end of the day I was right back in it. I can’t lie, I was a little winded compared to my 17 year old self, but kept up just fine.
The dinner went off without a hitch.The speakers included:
Ewan French – Chair of the Hockey Helps the Homeless Vancouver Organizing Committee
He has been the head of the committee since the local tournament began seven years ago. His tireless work organizing, planning and rallying has raised more than $1 million for organizations that work with people faced with homelessness in the Lower Mainland.
Reid McGruer – Regional Director of Freedom 55 Financial Vancouver
It was 8 years ago that Great-West Life first invested in Hockey Helps the Homeless and since that time their generous contributions have allowed the fundraiser to expand its reach while supporting the infrastructure requirements necessary to keep up with the rapid growth. They have been and continue to be such a big part of how the event can make a real difference in the lives of Canada’s homeless.
Me and Darcy Rota
The one and only Darcy Rota wrapped it all up with his heartfelt speech about the fundraiser. He had everyone in the palm of his hands. Not only is he a great coach but I can honestly say he is truly a great person.
Thanks to everyone involved the tournament raised a gross revenue of over $425,000. Funds were directed towards the Urban Native Youth Association, Covenant House, Powell’s Place, Rain City Housing, Lookout Society and more!
It was such an honor to be part of this event and I would encourage anyone looking for more information to visit their website at HockeyHelpsTheHomeless.com
Thanks for having me!