Hockey With Heart 2017-2018
With another UMHC season well underway, we again find ourselves immersed in the joy that the world’s greatest game brings to our lives. To the hockey outsider, the sport comes across as equally graceful as it does brutal. For those of us who have engaged in the sport through playing, coaching and as a spectator over our many years, it simply comes down to a love of hockey culture. Dave Bidini, the acclaimed hockey documentarian and writer said it best, “Hockey is a culture that understands nothing but itself”. He’s dead right. At a recent Friday morning skate with a group of community elders, I found myself sitting on the bench next to a gentleman I’d never met before in my life. A towering behemoth of a human being I’d guess to be in his mid-50’s, he was playing defence and wearing a Unionville Jets jersey that was larger than any swath of cloth I’d seen during my days standing in cold community arenas. A pleasant fellow, we continued to chat between shifts and I learned that his son played for the same team as my son, but was a year younger. Like many ice-prone parents tend to do, we talked about our kids, their hockey escapades and the common network of coaches, parents and rink-rats we crossed over the years. With no familiarity of either of our boy’s names coming up at an NHL draft, the conversation soon turned to “So what’s your son doing now?”. I talked of my son pursuing a business communications degree at Wilfred Laurier University and asked, “How about your son?”. He chuckled and said “Well, won’t believe this, but my son didn’t purse university. . . he became a model”. I looked at this man in a likely state of disbelief and quipped “He must look like his mother”. In most circumstances, such a reply would result in a confrontation that would have likely worked out best for the giant guy. But on a rock-hard hockey bench next to a freezing slate of ice, bonds of brotherhood are born. My new friend looked at me with humble grin, a squint and lightly shook his head from side-to-side. “Yep. . . isn’t that the truth”. We both laughed and jump off the bench to pursue our common goal up at the north side of the rink. Hockey is a culture that certainly understands nothing but itself.
With the UMHC now in it’s 36th year since inception, the concept of just a hockey league for older guys has taken on a whole new meaning in the community. The Unionville Men’s Hockey Club’s “Hockey With Heart” initiative was started over 10 years ago by some caring players who wanted to make a difference in the community. That small ripple on the proverbial ice pond has turned into a wave that now encompasses a committee of eight to represent a body of about 180 UMHC members. With many worthy accolades from years past to build upon, the HWH mandate remains focused on serving as the compassionate arm of the UMHC that is proactively engaged in making a difference in our community.
As presented at the annual UMHC “Draft Night”, the past year saw our cooperative support reaching many key causes in the community; Children’s Wish Foundation (Markham Wishes), Markham Food Bank, Unionville Alliance Church and to a teenage girl who faced with a homeless situation was desperately in need of a helping hand. We were able to support these needs and more through your assistance.
While there was plenty to be proud about over the past year, the passing of long-term UMHC member Jimmy Hill was an unexpected and difficult moment in our 2017-2018 season. On December 13th, while playing the game he loved, Jimmy succumbed to a heart attack that took his life. A family man and wonderful person who dedicated much of his time to the UMHC, Jimmy was a jovial and infectious spirit that filled the lives of anyone fortunate enough to know him.
It is in Jimmy’s honour that the “Jimmy Hill Community Service Award” was created over the year and will serve as a beacon to his service and dedication for others in the coming years and decades. Presented annually, this award recognizes and honour’s a person who has made a significant volunteer contribution to the community through their time, action, talents and dedication. Members of the UMHC can nominate any individual who has demonstrated qualities of compassion and volunteer service to the community over the year. Contact any HWH committee member for a nomination application. (Note that “a person” means both members and non-members of the UMHC).
In closing, I would like to recognize our many community partners who have supported our cause financially over the years. The Village Grocer, a whole host of advertising supporters, and many more community minded organizations and individuals make what we do possible. A special nod also goes to former UMHC member Jeff Shotbolt who graciously provided support last year.
Finally, my personal thanks to the Hockey With Heart committee consisting of community leaders Dave Wilson, Dennis Fortnum, Evan MacDonald, John Cabrelli, Lorrie-Anne Lauder, Peter Sands and Wayne Nishimura who unselfishly give of their time and skill to keep great things happening in the community. On behalf of the UMHC members, we are grateful for your efforts!