Who remembers SLAP hockey outside?
SLAP hockey – Hockey was among the first team sports organized by Sun Youth. Back in the 1950’s, municipal arenas did not exist so the youngsters played hockey on an outdoor rink at Jeanne-Mance Park. Going back to its roots, the organization established in 2005 the SLAP hockey development program specifically designed at making this sport accessible to disadvantaged kids. The young players, aged between 5 and 13 years old, evolve in a structured and non stressful environment under the supervision of volunteer coaches. These coaches are from various backgrounds but they all have something in common: they are passionate about hockey and wish to share their passion for our National Sport with the younger generation. Since October 2016, the SLAP program has expanded and is now available to young residents of Pierrefonds aged between 5 and 11 years old. Sponsored by the City of Montreal and the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough, this hockey development program takes place at the Pierrefonds Sportplexe. Special thanks go to the Montreal Canadiens and the NHLPA for making a $5000 donation to the program in 2017 as part of the league’s Centennial. In 2017-2018 the program was offered to about 100 children.
The SLAP program is also made possible through the collaboration of schools in the neighbourhoods where it is active. Such is the case of the John Rennie High School which offers a hockey sports concentration program (Sport-Études) among others. On March 17th, their students were meeting up on the ice with the SLAP kids for a friendly game. The teenagers were very impressed by the skills the SLAP kids demonstrated at the game and hope to repeat the experience next year. The school’s coaching staff was also very impressed when learning that many of these children had never played hockey before joining the program.
SLAP founder Vinnie Matteo and everyone else involved in the program are very proud of what they are able to accomplish through this initiative. Not only are they allowing children from underprivileged backgrounds to take part in a sport which would otherwise be inaccessible to them (this includes many children from immigrant families for whom the program also serves as a way to get integrated in their community), they are also able to prepare children for playing in a regular hockey league. Last year, SLAP hockey participants were able to “graduate” and make the jump to a minor league hockey, thanks to sponsorships from the Benjamin Joseph Pelletier Foundation and the Dynamo Media company. To help them make their dream of making it to the “Big League” come true the program is always looking for volunteers and also donations of gently used hockey equipment.
Feature image: Members of SLAP Hockey pose with members from the Benjamin Joseph Pelletier Foundation, our a major sponsor of SLAP Hockey program. Photo courtesy of Sun Youth.