With the upcoming hockey season just around the corner, the Friends of Hockey group this week fired up its annual equipment swap.
Woolwich residents who are in need of new equipment, or those who are looking to pass along their outgrown gear can stop by the Woolwich Memorial Centre this week to participate in the exchange.
To ensure Canada’s favourite sport is accessible to all, the Friends of Hockey will be handing out equipment for kids in the township free of charge. In addition, the group is always looking for donations of gently used equipment that can be passed along to fellow hockey players.
“There is a lot of demand for people who are just looking to get the next size for their kid to keep the costs of hockey down,” said Friends of Hockey representative Rob Waters.
With the price of equipment constantly rising, families are finding it difficult to keep up with the finances of both registration and equipment, he notes.
“People will come in looking for one shin-pad or something, and there are others that come for head-to-toe equipment,” said Waters.
Gaining more popularity each year allows the program to continue to keep the costs down for those in the township even for those new to the sport.
“We’re always in dire need of red helmets and red pants of any sizes,” added the group’s Jim Radcliffe.
The initiative started nearly five years ago when community members needed a place to donate used hockey equipment, says Waters. First the Friends of Hockey were giving away brand new gear from the National Hockey League Players’ Association and then that eventually turned into an opportunity for people to exchange their own used equipment.
Friends of Hockey was started by Waters’ father, Bob Waters, along with Jim Radcliffe and Richard Rank to make sure the sport they love is affordable for everyone.
As the former president of the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association, Radcliffe said he wants to make sure his kids and the kids in the community all have a fair shot of playing hockey just like he did when growing up.
“Hockey is an expensive sport; I noticed some of the children or parents were having a challenge with all the fees and everything.”
After a session Wednesday, Friends of Hockey is hosting another on August 17 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the WMC in Elmira. The Friends of Hockey will continue to distribute equipment all-year-round as well. Those unable to make it to equipment swap can reach out to the group through their website at www.friendsofhockey.ca.