Canada’s game

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The Outdoor Hockey League gives kids the chance to compete

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

According to Laura Logan, manager of the Ehrlo Sport Venture program, hockey is much more than just a game.

For nearly two decades the Outdoor Hockey League – a branch of the Ranch Ehrlo Society – has been helping underprivileged kids hit the ice. Logan explained that what started as a discussion about the differences between potluck and Christmas quickly turned into a discussion about hockey, something that happens during most Canadian conversations.

From there, a small idea turned into something much larger than anyone could have ever imagined.

“The [Ranch Ehrlo classroom] decided that they were going to try and collect 10 sets of [hockey] equipment to give kids within the North Central community,” Logan explained. “They were going to give the equipment away to kids that could use it in the community, so they put the word out there that they were wanting some equipment and they ended up with something like 500 pairs of skates – a little more than what they were expecting – and that doesn’t include all of the rest of the equipment that they collected as well.”

After an incredible response, the Ranch Ehrlo Society had to decide a way to divide up the generous donations.

“What they ended up doing was having a very large giveaway and just put the word out there to the community and gave every single bit of it away and had a pick up game of hockey on the community rink and it took off from there,” Logan said. “The following year they decided that they would do the same type of thing, but they wanted to have a reason to have the equipment so they developed a league which they ran out of Grassick Park.”

That league, which is now know as the Outdoor Hockey League, operates 14 weeks a year – usually from Jan. 3 to March 4, depending on the weather – and gives kids between the ages of eight and 18 the opportunity to lace up the skates and play Canada’s favourite game without having to worry about the financial aspect of getting involved.

In order to collect as much equipment as possible, the Outdoor Hockey League teamed up with Z99 and the Northgate Mall, among numerous other sponsors. An equipment drive at the Northgate Mall during the month of January brought in over 250 pieces of equipment, all of which went to good homes.

“In Regina, I have over 250 kids registered right now and we have dressed well over 300 kids,” Logan said. “We have an equipment library here with not only hockey equipment but with various sporting goods so when they register for our league we dress them from head to toe with full gear.”

What started as a small pick-up game in the early 90s has since expanded into seven rinks throughout the city where kids can compete, even splitting ice time with the University of Regina Cougars.

“Each kid registers to a specific rink and they will start off with some skills and drills and then they scrimmage,” Logan said. “Once a week we meet at the Co-operators arena; they have sponsored us with some ice time there and so each rink they will probably get about two times indoors and then we have games against other rinks within the city.”

The Outdoor Hockey League plans to light the lamp many times in the future, but not just on the scoreboard.

I think there is a lot of goals with the Outdoor Hockey League. No. 1 is to eliminate the expenses of being involved in recreation [and] No. 2 absolutely to have kids involved, doing positive recreational activities,” Logan said. “It is an opportunity for [the kids] to develop good relationships with kids that have common interests.”

Logan admits that the league would cease to exist without the help of its numerous volunteers.

“The volunteers that we have are not only community members but people from all over the place that want to help out,” she said. “There is a bit of a paper trail that takes place in order to be a volunteer with us, but once [the new volunteers] have that done we will have quite a few more with us.”

Students at the University of Regina help to make up the large group of volunteers that contribute time and effort to the Outdoor Hockey League – as well as numerous other programs – around the city.

“We actually do have quite a number of university students presently involved in our program. Not only do we have the Outdoor Hockey League, but there are various other programs.” Logan said. “The ECS 200 classes have been fantastic at providing us with some dedicated volunteers that have not only volunteered for other programs, but they carry on to other sports programs that they have a passion for so we have quite a few right now and we will have more because we have to get the ECS class up and running.”

Rhonda Nelson, an instructor for the ECS 200 class, has seen many students get involved with the Outdoor Hockey League in order to fulfill a community service-learning requirement.

“One of the many agencies that have been welcoming of the students is Ranch Ehrlo,” Nelson said. “There are a variety of volunteer opportunities with Ranch Ehrlo, one of which would be the Outdoor Hockey League.”

Nelson has been very please with her students involvement with the Ranch Ehrlo program.

“The students who have been with Ranch Ehrlo have loved it,” she said. “Some of them have been hired on as an employee after the completion of their volunteer hours and continue with Ranch Ehrlo in that capacity while still going to school.”

The Outdoor Hockey League is still looking for volunteer coaches and shack supervisors in Regina. Logan stresses that getting involved with this growing organization is incredibly rewarding.

“They are good role models and great cheerleaders,” she said. “They give [the kids] lots of positive boosts and self-esteem. It is good all around.”

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