Last night, the Canucks organization ran their annual Canucks for Kids Telethon during the Canucks-Jets game. This charitable act, as of 10pm Thursday night, had raised almost $700,000 towards assisting children and families suffering through illness, loss, and all manner of tragedies. Well, my smuglies, our collective heart has been warmed. To see professional athletes stop and remind those of us who may take this game a wee-bit seriously (like all you obsessive Canucks bloggers out there) that there are more important things in the world than sports, and the NHL seems to be recognizing that these days.
In light of this, we at Smug Nation have decided to take a break from our nonsense, shift our tongues to mid-mouth, and share our favourite hockey-related moments and charities of the year, from courageous acts to extreme generosity—and you’re going to soak up every last sentimental bit.
What more fitting place to start than with than a charity inspired by a man who was both a Canuck and a Jet, however briefly? After the tragic passing of Rick Rypien last summer, a hockey player who suffered from chronic depression, the Canucks partnered with Child, Youth and Young Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services to create mindcheck.ca and help promote this important initiative that is working to create awareness of mental health issues. Canucks.com shared this on their website:
“In the first 3 weeks of launching, Mindcheck.ca saw 160 video pledges uploaded, 50,000 visitors to the site and 24,000 self assessments.”
If you get a chance, take a few moments to browse the site. In the wake of the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert, and Ryp, it’s become clear that hockey players and people in general need to become more comfortable with sharing their battles with mental illness.
2. The You Can Play Project
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you have probably heard about You Can Play, the initiative created by Patrick Burke and inspired in large part by his late brother Brendan, who was both a hockey player and a homosexual. The You Can Play Project is dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding homosexuality in sports, enlightening players and fans to the dangers of homophobia and homophobic slurs, and changing the culture of locker rooms to ignore things like race or sexual orientation. Only athletic ability, work ethic, and spirit matter. How can that be bad?
“You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.”
You Can Play is backed by some big names around the NHL, including Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Pascal Dupuis, Duncan Keith, Henrik Lundquist, and some guy named Brian Burke. They are also largely supported by the inimitable Georges Laraque, who, ironically, is the subject of my very large man crush. The collection of finesse skaters, grinders, goalies, GMs, and one of the most feared enforcers ever to lace ‘em up in the NHL (and yet, just the nicest dude ever) ensures that all aspects of the game are covered. This may just encourage a gay NHL player (and there are guaranteed to be several) to come out and pave the way for countless kids and adults who currently live in fear and secret. Kudos to the Burke family and to the NHL for embracing this so wholeheartedly.
3. Five Days for the Homeless
I’ll just touch briefly on this charity campaign, as it isn’t necessarily associated with the NHL, but it does have the impressive Georges Laraque involved (seriously, this man is the embodiment of everything this post is trying to say). 5 Days for the Homeless sees university students (and Laraque) actually live on the streets for five days to raise awareness and cash for the homeless.
“To date, the campaign has raised over $750,000 for charitable organizations across the country and has spread its message from coast to coast.”
4. The Jets
This may seem less important following some of the above charities, but that probably depends on who you’re talking to. True North Sports and Entertainment did what it seemed would never, ever happen when they purchased the stumbling Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg (the second time an NHL team was moved out of Atlanta to Canada—maybe Jim Balsillie should start hanging around that area). In a sport plagued with struggling franchises and “fans” who only turn up when a team is winning, I find extreme inspiration in a fan base that remains loyal to a team that doesn’t exist for 15 years. Think about that. I think if the Florida Panthers went on an extended road trip they’d have fans who forget they exist (though I know there are some great, great Panthers fans, so please don’t take offense—what am I saying? Floridians are too old to use the internet.)
The passion with which the fans embrace this team is incredible and no doubt has led to their surprising home record this season. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not secretly hoping that the Jets make the playoffs this season, you’re not a Canadian hockey fan. This could finally be a team that almost all of Canada can get behind, forgetting the fires of rivalry and bitterness that we so smugly love to stoke each and every day. Go Jets go!
5. Connor Crisp
By now, everyone has heard about Connor Crisp of the OHL taking a turn in net for the Erie Otters. After missing most of the season with a shoulder injury, the forward was asked to dress as an emergency backup and then was forced into the game a few minutes in. Crisp, who is a salt-of-the-earth hockey kid, let in 13 goals and was named the game’s first star.
Why do I bring this up? Check out my favourite part of this video at the 0:30 mark, when the Niagara IceDogs skate over and tap Crisp’s pads while the crowd (which supports the opposing team) gives him a standing O. This was about a kid stepping up for his team knowing full well that he was going to get embarrassed. Sportsmanship, a team-first attitude, and a whole lot of respect.
6. Canucks for Kids Fund
I’ll finish back where I started, with the Canucks for Kids Fund. This is a long-running campaign by our boys in blue and green to raise money for kids in the community, donating to the BC Children’s Hospital and assisting with grassroots hockey and educational programs. One of the major components of this is the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, for which Canucks for Kids has raised over $23 million dollars that works to support families going through some pretty terrible stuff.
“For over 15 years this wonderful home away from home has provided child-focused and family-centred care for children with life-threatening illnesses. The Hospice provides: 24-hour, 7-days-a-week care by nurses and physicians, family care, end-of-life, pain and symptom management, school music and play therapy, recreation opportunities and counseling services.”
Normally I would gleefully sit here and tell you the Canucks do it best, but it should be noted that teams all over the league raise money for their communities and for issues such as this, from the Carolina Hurricanes’ Kids ‘N Community Foundation to the Colorado Avalanche’s Full Strength campaign. This is without mentioning the players’ individual efforts—be it the Sedins donating $1.5 million to the BC Children’s Hospital or Paul Bissonnette’s “Biznasty Feeds the Homeless” Campaign, a lot of NHL players are doing good things for their communities.
This is what I love about hockey. Players and teams striving to give back; the NHL raising awareness of important issues; bloggers (those who are obviously better people than us at Smug Nation) trying to raise money through this sport for the less fortunate. This sport just continuously impresses me with the quality of the people drawn to it. I want everyone to just sit for a minute and reflect on what hockey has done for Canadian communities and culture over the years.
Now wipe your nose and get ready for the stretch drive.