In conjunction with the World Cup of Hockey, the Economic Club of Canada organized a panel discussion called World Cup of Hockey 2016: The Economic and Cultural Impact of Sport in Canada on 16 Sept 2016 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. The event featured speakers such as Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL); Donald Fehr, president of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA); and Dan Near, head of Adidas Hockey.

Two MGCI students, Aya Shanti and Srinidhi Potukuchi, along with two MGCI graduates, Faustin and Clovis Obedi, were invited to speak about their experiences playing hockey at the event. The four of them had participated in a grassroots hockey organization called Hockey4Youth. The founder of the program, Moezine Hasham, secured the opportunity for the four participants after suggesting the idea to one of the event’s coordinator, Rhiannon Traill.

At the panel discussion, the four Hockey4Youth participants talked about their past year playing hockey. They shared their experiences in front of Mr. Bettman, Mr. Fehr, and Mr. Near, as well as the panel’s audience. Several Hockey4Youth

participants had come to watch the event and offer support. At the end of the discussion, the participants, Mr. Hillman (the program’s teacher supervisor), and Moezine presented authentic Marc Garneau hockey jerseys to a number of the speakers.

“My interview opportunity was absolutely mind blowing,” said Aya. “I got to make my experience with this program known, and I feel like when people that have never skated before see something like my interview on TV, it really encourages them to go out there and try something new.”

Upon the success of the dialogue, Gary Bettman offered the group an opportunity to watch a Hockey World Cup game. Twelve tickets for the Canada vs. Czech Republic game on 17 Sept at the Air Canada Centre were donated. The four speakers, along with Humaira Sedu, Akbar Mohammad, Mr. Hillman and Mr. Hasham, attended the game.

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Hockey4Youth members attend the World Cup of Hockey’s Canada vs. Czech Republic game on 17 Sept 2016. Photo: Mr. Hillman

When asked about the game, one of the participants, Humaira Sedu said, “it was a once in a lifetime experience and I would jump at the chance to do it again. The game itself was fantastic, Canada beating Czech Republic 6-0. Oh, and Mr. Hillman got on the Jumbotron.”

“That was my first time watching live hockey,” said Aya, “and it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Mr. Hillman and Moe. They both worked very hard to organize everything and I can’t express how grateful I am to have them as coaches.” Participants from Marc Garneau also had the opportunity to watch Team Canada come onto the ice. Students fist-bumped the players and met a retired Toronto Maple Leafs player.

The success of Hockey4Youth’s discussion also interested CityTV. The channel contacted Moezine, and requested an interview with Aya, Srinidhi, Clovis, and Faustin on 19 Sept at the Victoria Village Arena. The students met at the arena, passed the puck around, and answered questions for reporter Adrian Ghobrial. The segment on the students and Hockey4Youth aired that night at 5:30 pm and once again at 6:30 and 11:00 pm.

Hockey4Youth is a grassroots hockey program that operates at the Angela James Community Centre. Mr. Hillman, the head of MGCI’s Athletic Department, supervises its meetings while Moezine Hasham runs them. Hockey4Youth offers students at MGCI an opportunity to learn hockey; participants are provided with coaching, ice time, equipment, and field trips. The club ran during the 2015-2016 school year, and will be back for its second season this school year. Due to Garneau’s lack of hockey players, it was also created in hopes that the school could one day form a competitive team.

“[Hockey4Youth] is about removing the social and economic barriers and creating an entry point for youth between 13 to 19 to play a sport that is not as inclusive as it can be,” said Moezine, who mentioned how his own introduction to hockey can be attributed to his mother’s perseverance and the equipment donated by his generous neighbour. “According to a report by the Institute of Canadian Citizenship, 71% of new citizens have an interest in hockey but only 1% will have an opportunity to play the game.”

The students within the club are undoubtedly passionate about hockey. “It was my first time playing hockey,” said Aya, when asked about her experience with the program, “and the fact that I got to do that with such a welcoming group of people with different levels of hockey was an opportunity that not many have gotten before.”

All the members are excited to get back onto the ice. Many look forward to training and learning hockey at an even higher level. If students are interested in joining Hockey4Youth, they may speak to Mr. Hillman for more details.