The City of Toronto has partnered with Goodwill, the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) and several Scarborough Centre businesses to launch a Hockey Reuse Equipment Bank.
This was one of 10 recommendations made by a 22-member Task Force on the State of Hockey in Scarborough co-chaired by councillor Michael Thompson and GTHL executive director Scott Oakman. Stakeholders with impressive credentials representing Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the Ontario Hockey Federation, Canadian Ball Hockey, Toronto’s public and Catholic schools boards, local hockey associations and members of the public also participated in the process.
Established by Scarborough Community Council in June 2009, the task force was charged with addressing rapidly declining enrolment in youth hockey leagues and the subsequent struggle faced by Scarborough’s minor hockey organizations.
The new bank that provides hockey equipment at affordable prices opened last Saturday.
“When I played hockey in Scarborough, every kid wanted to play and we had up to 10,000 young people playing the sport annually,” said Thompson who initiated the project. “Now that number has dwindled to about 1,500. That was not good and we had to come up with ways to address this issue.”
Thompson, who came to Canada from Jamaica at a young age, said an increase in the immigrant population and the high cost of playing the sport contribute to the declining enrolment in the floundering Scarborough Hockey Association.
“Many of these people are attracted to the sport by watching it on TV, but they don’t know how to get their kids involved in programs,” the Scarborough Centre councilor since 2003 said. “If we don’t have that feeder system, the game will not grow…We also know that the sport is expensive and there are many people who are sitting on equipment in their homes and don’t know what to do with them. What we are doing here is addressing the cost factor, introducing more young people to the sport and getting that equipment back into circulation.
“We want to ensure that our young people are involved in hockey and other sports activities. We know that when youths are active, it not only helps in the growth and development of their minds and bodies, but also their ability to socially interact…Not all kids will get to the National Hockey League (NHL), but every parent wants their kids to be good students and human beings and physical activity helps that process.”
Goodwill Greater Toronto, Central & Eastern Ontario president Dr. Ken Connelly said Thompson approached him about a year ago with the idea to use their only reuse centre at 350 Progress Ave. between Midland Ave. & Brimley Rd. as a bank to distribute affordable hockey equipment to young people.
“This is a good central location that I felt we could start the pilot from,” he said. “I am excited about the project because it benefits youths.”
Connelly said used equipment can be dropped off at nine Goodwill locations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Helmets, hockey, shoulder and elbow pads, sticks, jerseys, protective cups and other gear cost just $7 for kids and $8 for adults while goalie pads are priced between $20-$30 for youths and $50-$90 for adults.
Fresh Gear, an official supplier to Hockey Canada, has undertaken to clean the equipment before it’s resold.
Other recommendations to increase participation in the sport include the creation of a Scarborough Sports Council that would among other things be the voice of the sport in the Scarborough area by promoting the value of participation and inclusiveness in all sports, including hockey; more learn-to-skate programs; cooperation between school boards; the development of a hockey communication strategy and an outreach program designed to familiarize new Canadians with the game.