The fledgling Friends of Hockey organization got a huge boost last week when the National Hockey League Players Association announced it will be supplying equipment to deserving local players.
Friends of Hockey helps with equipment and registration costs for local families who couldn’t otherwise afford to put their kids in hockey. The NHLPA has agreed to cover the costs of up to 25 new sets of equipment each year through its Goals and Dreams program.
The partnership started with Boston Bruins defenceman and Elmira native Dennis Wideman after he learned about Goals and Dreams, which provides equipment grants to grassroots hockey programs.
He contacted Rick Weiss, an advisor with RBC’s sports professionals program who has worked with the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation. Weiss in turn called Jim Radcliffe, president of Woolwich Minor Hockey and one of three people behind Friends of Hockey.
“It was basically Dennis’ impetus,” Weiss said. “He said, ‘I want to do something for the community that was so good to me.’”
With Weiss’ help, Friends of Hockey submitted an application to Goals and Dreams. Matt Langen, manager of the program, said the group was a natural fit.
“They have the same ideologies as we do – trying to get kids who unfortunately don’t have the same financial support as other kids playing this game, and trying to get those kids on the ice. It fit perfectly with what our goals and objectives are.”
Since its launch in 1999, Goals and Dreams has donated more than $17 million to grassroots hockey programs around the world, and more than 13,000 sets of equipment to children in 22 countries. Funds are allocated according to the nationality of the NHLPA’s membership.
Langen said the players provide the funds, but it’s the local organizations that are essential to making it happen.
“Without programs like that, we wouldn’t be here. These guys should be commended for the work they do to help kids in the Elmira and Woolwich area.”
Langen was on hand last Sunday at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena for the Atlanta Thrashers practice to kick off the partnership by donated 12 sets of equipment to the Woolwich sledge hockey team and another eight sets to Friends of Hockey.
The brainchild of Radcliffe, Bob Waters and Mark Fackoury, Friends of Hockey was for many years an informal undertaking that took on an official face last fall. So far this year, it has provided four full sets of hockey equipment and is helping 11 young players in some way.
Anyone who needs assistance can contact Friends of Hockey by sending an e-mail to email@example.com, outlining the circumstances and the assistance required. The process is confidential to protect the privacy of the families who need help.
With the donation from the NHLPA, they’ll be able to expand the program, Radcliffe said.
“My goal is definitely to find that kid who’s not playing hockey right now because it’s just not an option – find that kid and get them on the ice. That means we’re successful.”