DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Past and present members of the Uxbridge SS boys hockey team will be embarking on a goodwill mission later this year, when they trek to a remote Northern Ontario First Nations community.
A ten-person team, including eight former Tigers hockey players will be making the trip between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4 to host daily hockey clinics for coaches and players to allow attendees the opportunity to improve and gain new skills.
As well, the Tigers will be taking a shipment of hockey equipment to aid in stocking the community’s newly built arena, and allow more children the chance to enjoy our national winter sport.
"At the conclusion of our week there, we hope to have a tournament as well as a skills competition to allow those attending our clinics to show off their new skills to their friends and family," explained Tigers Head Coach Don Simmonds.
Jeff Wilson, who is serving as team captain this season, is the lone current Tigers player to be taking part in the excursion, said he is proud of the opportunity to be able to use hockey to instill hope, determination and fun to a community that is often challenged by poverty, addiction and suicide.
"The Tigers’ motto is ‘winning at hockey, winning at life,’ and we’re really trying to put the winning at life part out there," Mr. Wilson said. "They don’t have it as well as we do down here, and if we can use hockey as a means of giving back, that’s incredible. I don’t think that a lot of teams can do this type of thing, and that’s a great part about this team. It’s not just hockey skills, we’re developing life skills too."
A number of former Tigers players will also be taking part in the tournament, including Uxbridge Bruins centre Tim Bierema, Adam Cranley, Ryan Lavrench, Josh Lubbock, Ryan Noakes and Tavis Smith.
"I have enjoyed years of competitive hockey in Uxbridge and now it’s time we contributed back," said Smith, who was also the co-president of Uxbridge SS in his final year and is now attending the University of Western Ontario. "It is exciting to think we can help young people in such a remote community improve their hockey skills and grow in their enjoyment of this great sport, while bringing hope at the same time."
The project is being overseen by the Uxbridge Baptist Church, which, for the past three years, along with other Uxbridge-area churches, has sent teams of women to First Nations communities as well as an annual medical mission to Ghana.
There are two ways the Uxbridge community can assist the Tigers in this latest endeavour.
Businesses, teams and residents can contribute new or gently-used hockey equipment for all ages and sizes. Shobrook Gardens, located at 1 Elgin Park Dr., will act as the drop-off point for equipment between 9 a.m. and noon until Sunday, Dec. 8.
Residents can also contribute funds to help offset the cost of each player participating in this trip.
For donations, cheques should be made payable to Uxbridge Baptist Church and put in an envelope marked "Hope Through Hockey" (donations over $25 will be receipted) and can be mailed to:
Uxbridge Baptist Church
"Hope Through Hockey"
231 Brock St. W, Uxbridge, ON
One of the Tigers’ LOSSA rivals have already contributed to the cause, with the St. Mary (Pickering) Monarchs donating a full set of goalie equipment along with a team set of pant shells.
The Monarchs and Tigers have engaged in a sometimes heated rivalry over the past 10 years, with both of Uxbridge’s LOSSA championships - in 2006 and 2012 - coming at the expense of St. Mary. Coach Simmonds was thrilled with the rivals being able to set aside their on-ice differences in support of a common cause.
"It’s very inspiring to our team to think that our arch rival would contribute in this way," Coach Simmonds said.
Further questions on how the community can get involved with this unique endeavour can call Courtney at 905-852-2333.
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