Written By Nick Symon
Hockey is Canada’s game, that’s no secret.
It’s also no secret that hockey can be an expensive sport, something that can hinder kids around the country from playing our nation’s favourite past time.
Lending a helping hand is something that Albertans do best, and giving back to a sport that has given so much to so many should be a no-brainer, especially in an oil rich province.
After successfully creating and running the Sports Central program in Edmonton, which takes donated equipment from kids who no longer use and gives it to less fortunate kids to help them play the sport of their choice, Andy Wigston wanted to expand the program to Calgary and Southern Alberta.
After 20 years in Edmonton, the program assisted more than 8,600 children last season with 60 per cent of those being hockey players.
With the help of Bill Comrie, a similar program has finally reached Calgary with the creation of Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank.
Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank, which officially launched on Sept. 10, has already seen loads of donations to the program and currently has more equipment than kids to fit.
Teaming up with KidSport Calgary, Hockey Calgary, the Hockey Canada Foundation, Sport Calgary, the Western Hockey League, the Calgary Flames Foundation and Hockey Alberta, Russell Gillespie has been put in charge of the program to make sure it runs smoothly.
“As the General Manager, I’m actually the only employee of Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank at this time,” explained Gillespie. “A lot of credit has to go to Andy Wigston up in Edmonton with the program that has slowly come together in the last three or four years.”
“We have created a Board of Directors for the program, who I report to, and since I was hired in mid-June, I have been busy building a warehouse (in the Erinwoods community) with a shop-like look to have a place to store and fit equipment,” added Gillespie.
The Equipment Bank is a not-for-profit organization, using the money they receive through donations to buy every kid who comes through the program a new helmet. They then donate older helmets to startup skating programs.
The Bank has not only equipment and jerseys for individuals, but also supplies to help teams or communities. Gillespie was able to help out his brother, who started a hockey program in Southern Alberta, with three sets of jerseys to help get his program off the ground.
With more equipment than kids at this point, Gillespie has been busy reaching out to groups and communities, trying to get the message to parents who cannot afford to put their child in hockey.
“We have worked really closely with KidSport and their new Executive Director, Kevin Webster,” said Gillespie. “We have also reached out to the Boys & Girls Club and other agencies and communities in Calgary and Southern Alberta.”
KidSport Calgary plans on working with different charitable agencies around Southern Alberta to determine who qualifies for the program. Once their child or children qualify, parents will need to make an appointment with Gillespie to get sized and outfitted.
“With this being a new program, we understand the importance of hockey in this province, so with this being our first year, we are strictly focusing on hockey,” expressed Gillespie. “Farther down the road we are hoping to fulfill other sports needs as well.”
The three things Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank and Gillespie need in order to make this program successful are gear, volunteers and money.
“We just had our first personal donor donation this morning,” revealed Gillespie. “[The donor’s] son plays high level quadrant hockey in the NW and he is going to donate $10,000 and a couple of sets of high end goalie gear.”
Spending time around the rinks in Calgary and more importantly Alberta, you don’t have to go far to find people talking about old equipment they have lying around their house collecting dust.
With the Sports Central program and now Comrie’s Equipment Bank in Calgary, Alberta is well on their way to getting as many kids and parents involved in the sports community as possible, which is bound to be extremely rewarding for everyone involved.
“We are trying to break down financial barriers between kids and their chosen sport,” declared Gillespie. “We encourage anyone, whether associated with an agency or not, to get in contact with me to help as many kids as possible jump through the hoop and help them play.”
Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank has collection bins around Calgary at the Edge school, Lake Bonavista and Cardel Place.
For additional information, visit www.comriessportsequipmentbank.org
Growing our Game with the Right Tools
Hockey Alberta and TheDrillbook.com have happily announced a partnership to help coaches and young hockey players across the province for the upcoming season.
TheDrillbook.com is a free coaching and player development platform that delivers cutting edge on-ice programming, coaching assistance and practice planning tools.
"This partnership is a great opportunity for our volunteer coaches across Alberta. We want to provide our coaches high quality resources and information to assist them in the growth and development of our great game,” said Drew Dixon, Manager of Coach Development for Hockey Alberta. (Courtesy hockeyalberta.ca)
The website allows you to customize, load and share practice plans, videos and information that is easy to access.
"Hockey Alberta is an outstanding and forward-thinking organization, and the organization and its volunteers impact so many young boys and girls in a positive way. There are many success stories as a result of their hard work and commitment and we are very excited to be a part of it," said Mark Maloney, Chief Executive Officer of TheDrillbook.com. (Courtesy hockeyalberta.ca)