Woolwich residents in need of some new hockey gear ahead of the season, or those looking to offload some outgrown equipment, would do well to pass by the Friends of Hockey annual equipment swap next week at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Helping to make Canada’s favourite sport accessible to all, the Friends of Hockey will once again be handing out equipment for kids in the township free of charge.
At the same time, they’ll be accepting donations of gently used equipment that will be passed on to new owners.
“We’ve accumulated a lot of equipment again over the year and we’re just looking to distribute it throughout the community,” explained Kyle Rank, one of the organizers with Friends of Hockey. “So if kids have outgrown some equipment that they obviously no longer need, we would love for them to come by the arena and exchange it for some bigger stuff.”
The idea, says Rank, is to make the sport more affordable for parents and their kids, especially those living in Woolwich.
“Hockey equipment is not cheap. To outfit a kid starting hockey, you’re probably looking at upwards of $500,” notes Rank. “Any way we can help out just to get more kids playing is kind of our goal of the charity.”
The equipment swap is a fairly new initiative for the Friends of Hockey, a group which has its roots going back decades in the township. The group was started by Rank’s father, Richard Rank, along with Bob Waters and Jim Radcliffe. Radcliffe continues to be a part of the charity, while Water’s son Rob and Kyle continue on with their fathers’ work.
“Since the passing of both our fathers, we’ve sort of taken it over. And we’ve basically helped kids financially for probably 15 to 20 years, and now the equipment aspect has taken place in the last three years,” said Rank.
In that way, Rank is carrying on the legacy of his father Richard, who last year had a street named after him in Elmira in recognition of his contributions to minor hockey in the township. Hockey also became an important part of both Kyle and his brother Garrett’s upbringing.
“When it first started, [my father] was like, ‘you know what, hockey’s been pretty important in our lives,’ and he just kind of wanted other people to get involved so they could see the benefits of their children growing up playing hockey,” he said.
“So obviously for my dad, hockey was a huge part of his life. And then us growing up, we played minor hockey in Elmira and then … both my brother and I played with the Sugar Kings. Then I went on to play some pro hockey, and then obviously with my brother reffing in the NHL, hockey’s been an important part of our life.”
Those looking to donate their old equipment are encouraged to come by as well, notes Rank, with the biggest demand being anything red – the colour of rep hockey in Woolwich.
“We’re trying to stock up our inventory. The big expense is red, always the red equipment because when the kids make a rep team in Woolwich, it’s red for the boys and girls. So normally if kids have black helmets or whatever, all of a sudden they make a rep team and they need to switch over to the red equipment. So it can be a little bit pricey for some parents,” he said.
“But any way we can help out, we’re pretty happy to step up and do so.”
The equipment swap is being held on August 15 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the WMC in Elmira. Although they’re holding just the one event, the Friends of Hockey are able to give and receive hockey gear throughout the year. Those unable to make it to equipment swap can reach out to the group through their website at Friends of Hockey.