The conditions were perfect Friday for the 3rd annual YMCA Strong Kids Road Hockey Classic at Lee Park.
The tournament was postponed the day before due to rain.
Donna Carriere brought her lawn chair to sit and take in all the action, watching her 9-year-old grandson and some of his classmates play three on three road hockey.
He was one of roughly 200 students from various school boards across the district taking part in elementary day.
“I love it. Absolutely love it. The camaraderie is great, the teamwork has been fantastic. They’ve been winning their games and I just think it is a great outing. It has been a great experience for the kids. And I love the music,” grinned Carriere.
“It has been very well organized, everything has been on time and the kids are having a blast. I think kids need to be outside and this is a great way to get some exercise.”
Nine-year-old Milah who played last year is happy to be back.
“It is fun. I like it. I like playing as part of a team. You can play with your friends and I saw a few familiar faces and I met one new person so that was nice.”
General manager of YMCA Northeastern Ontario, Michelle Ainger says the youngsters look forward to the day.
“We have kids from grade 3 to grade 8. Some kids are very competitive, and some are brand new to hockey. It is more on the fun side, but you’ll definitely get some friendly school competition as well which is great.”
Ainger explained that all the proceeds go directly to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign.
“Our Strong Kids Campaign helps give local children and families who wouldn’t otherwise be financially able to do so, the opportunity to do things like take part in swimming lessons, camperships, and memberships. We do that through financial assistance.”
The fundraising effort also gives participants a sense of community.
“It is important for these guys to see the importance of giving back to the community, but it is about having fun at the same time.”
Tournament chair Dan Selin says it is obvious that the kids enjoy themselves.
“We see kids running, we see kids dancing. We see nothing but smiles. They’re kibitzing with one another, but all in all when you run an event of this size with seven rinks, and over 200 kids, there are no issues, no complaints of kids being mean to other kids. It is such a positive atmosphere the kids feed off it,” said Selin.
For some of the youngsters, it was their first time playing hockey.
“For some of these kids, their sticks are longer than the top of their heads. It is obvious they have never played hockey and there is a fair number of them. But kudos to the schools because they promote this within the schools, that if you want to play, you don’t have to be a hockey player. We just want you to come out and participate. So that is good news for the schools, for the kids, and for the ‘Y.’ “
The second day of the tournament, community day, has a youth division, adult division, and special needs division.
It was scheduled for Saturday but has now been moved to the following day.
“We have had to move it to the Sunday because of the weather forecast, so Sunday looks promising right now. The opening ceremonies will get underway at 10 a.m. and the puck drops at 10:30 a.m.,” said Ainger.
Selin has put out a call for one more team.
“We are looking for a minimum of three players. Because we moved the tournament from Saturday to Sunday due to the weather, we had one team drop out. So, we’re in search of three players to play 3 on 3. If interested, call the YMCA, “said Selin.
Organizers hope to net $10,000 for the Strong Kids campaign.