The Rabbits Hockey League in St. Clements left their regular hockey sticks at home last week to play a game of straight stick hockey, for fun and for a good cause.
Tim Waters, one of the players and organizers of the event, said they called it straight stick chicken wing night. Each team was given five old-fashioned straight wooden hockey sticks to play with for the night, and they sold chicken wings.
“Some of the fellas I play with suggested we could raise a few bucks for, originally, another charity but then we read about Ella Dorscht,” Waters said. “And Nick and his dad have played in the league for 20 plus-years. We decided why don’t we raise some money?”
Dorscht lives in Elmira and at less than two years old is one of the youngest people in Canada with pulmonary hypertension. Only 5,000 people in Canada have the lung disease. Her dad, Nick, plays in the St. Clements league.
“We ran a 50/50 and sold the sticks for a small profit and ended up raising just over $500 for the Dorscht family to help with Ella’s expenses,” Waters said.
He said the original idea for the event came because they wanted to change things up for the last night before the holidays. They bought 60 straight sticks from a supplier in Maryhill and gave them to the six teams. Players couldn’t cut them off, but could tape them. This also meant they had to switch off sticks each shift and you wouldn’t get the same stick each time.
“It was remarkably more difficult to play with a straight stick than I would have thought,” Waters said. “Puck control is extremely difficult. I enjoyed the challenge of it.”
The league is made up of 96 players with varying levels, from guys who’ve only played house league to those who used to play Major Junior A. The sticks helped even-out the playing field.
“Even the good skaters, players, couldn’t really control it and then shooting was remarkably difficult,” Waters said. “One of the goalies commented it was difficult for him as well, usually he can track where the puck would come from. The player didn’t really even know either.”
He added with a laugh that one of the really good hockey players in the league went in on a breakaway and ended up shooting it in the corner.
“The whole premise was to have a lot of fun, change the game a little bit, have some chicken wings to change the atmosphere because there’s usually no food on Tuesday night, and the idea of fundraising a little money came to light and we all chipped in a bit,” Waters said.
Waters has been playing in the league since 1996 and said it’s a competitive league for guys 35 and older.
“We try to make the teams equal and it’s just a really fun league,” Waters said. “There are really few problems. Good referees from the Elmira referee association make things a lot better too. It’s just good, clean hockey.”
He added the Dorscht family is deserving of the money because they’ve been extremely active in the St. Clements community and the hockey league for years.
“It’s not a lot of money but it’s just a little bit of money to help someone through some tough times,” Waters said. “I said you can use it for expenses, give it to your wife, give it your other child, buy something, but enjoy it.”
The sticks were auctioned off after the game, which helped get them over the $500 mark. RHL plays three games every Tuesday night at the St. Clements Arena.
“It was just a nice thing to do for a guy who’s done a lot for the community.”