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An effort to put homelessness on ice

It was a mix of local players, NHL alumni and Olympians raising funds for local charities at the eighth annual Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH) tournament last Friday at RIM Park.

Rob Way, chair of the volunteer committee for HHTH in Waterloo Region, said they had 12 teams and some 180 players taking part.

“Hockey Helps the Homeless, the whole focus around it across Canada is helping the homeless in various communities, so the local folks can decide what and how they want to help the homeless and each committee – so Vancouver may be doing something different, Winnipeg may be doing something different. Here we chose to support the emergency shelter bed network. There are five charities that actually run the shelter bed network.”

The five charities that get donations from Hockey Helps the Homeless in Waterloo Region are House of Friendship, YW Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge Shelter Corp., Lutherwood, and oneROOF youth services. 

“Your donation in 2021 helped to prevent youth from becoming chronically homeless and entering the adult shelter system by supporting youth and families in their time of crisis,” said a spokesperson for Lutherwood in a statement.

“These funds were used to provide a safe place to stay for men experiencing homelessness, these men also received onsite health care and housing supports resulting in over 80 men becoming healthier and housed,” added a spokesperson for House of Friendship.

“We ran a virtual event last year and raised over $300,000. Our donors and a lot of our players really went to bat for us. We support the emergency shelter network in the region, and that became even more important during the pandemic with a lot of pressures on it. In seven years, we’ve donated $1.353 million,” said Way.

Due to COVID, Hockey Helps the Homeless looked a little different this year than in previous outings, but the tournament October 29 was still able to raise $265,000 for its charity partners. Way noted they usually have a large local audience cheering on the players but had to forgo it to try to limit any spread as well as limit contact between players.

Local player Duane Zappitelli, vice-president of sales and distribution at FaithLife Financial, has been playing in the tournament for seven years.

“I think it’s a fantastic cause. In fact, we had used one of the services with one of my sons when he was younger – we had him in Lutherwood for half of his Grade 7 year – and ever since then I have been a huge supporter of this cause. It’s great. The organizational committee is phenomenal. We’ve seen what the money does, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Zappitelli in between games. “We’re playing Canada Life, they’ve been our archrivals ever since I came into the tournament. I know it wasn’t an accident that we were paired against them but it’s a great healthy competition.”

There were 16 former professional hockey players taking part in the tournament in Waterloo, including the likes of Keith Acton, Nik Antropov, Brad Boyes, Megan Bozek, Jayna Hefford, Scott Walker, Ethan Moreau and Gary Leeman.

“We’re going to raise as much money as we did two-years-ago with 238 players and this year we’ve got 180, so the players have really stepped up,” said Way.

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