Cold Toes and Warm Hearts: A Canadian Hockey Tale

How to (Un)Successfully Organize a Charity Hockey Tournament on the Coldest Day of the Year

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Friday, the 29th of December.

I woke up only to find out it was most likely going to be the coldest day of 2017 in St. Albert, Alberta. What a day it was to put on an outdoor charity hockey tournament. With the wind-chill, it felt like -40°C; so far, the day was off to a great start.

I could confidently assume that only a small fraction of those who had verbally committed to coming out to play hockey would come. Sure enough, as if I was some sort of clairvoyant, the texts came through, one by one, each one of them saying something along the lines of, “Hey man, I’m sorry, but there is no f***ing way I’m playing hockey out in this weather. Have fun, try not to die.” Needless to say, I was mildly tempted to call the event off, but like a true Canadian I froze my ass off instead.

Set up for the tournament was simple: hang the tournament banner, set up the prize table, shovel the snow off the ice surface. I decided to hang the banner first, and I presumptuously chose Gorilla Tape as my means of banner mounting — something I learnt from this experience, adhesives do not work in cold temperatures. As soon as I removed the tape from the roll, it lost all its stick. So, the only alternative I saw fit was to text my buddy, who had become my right-hand man in putting on this tournament, and asked him to bring a hammer and some nails. About 10 minutes later, he showed up and I pounded 15 nails into the sideboards of the rink to make sure the poster would never come off (I ended up having to remove it since nailing a promotional poster to city property is no-no).

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Photo taken from the St.Albert Gazette. Vol.30 №2. January 6 2018

The rest of the set up took no time at all, and with a cup of hot chocolate and Baileys in our hands, we waited for our fellow Canadians to turn out in droves. To be honest, I didn’t expect anyone to show up, and I was ready to leave and take a hot shower, but to my surprise, a meagre group of brave souls was assembled throughout the day, as people came and left. There was never more than 6 people out there at a time, but it was nice knowing people cared enough to risk frostbite to play some stick and puck.

Not only were we feeling the effects of the cold, but the ice was also in bad shape. It was so cold out that cracks 3 feet long and half a foot deep were forming on the ice. We tried our best to repair them by throwing snow and ice chips into the cracks and setting it with water, but like some sort of Arctic-hydra, as we filled one crack, two more appeared. We eventually gave up, much to my chagrin, as I tripped over the same giant crack several times — the last of which I smashed my knee and now probably have some sort of prolonged nerve damage because of it.

At the end of the day, $230 dollars was raised for KidSport St. Albert charity, to support sports for kids who can’t afford it. Everyone who came out left with an Edmonton Oilers themed prize and frozen toes, as well as the sense of doing something good for their community.

And me? I learned a valuable lesson — don’t rely on a good-natured verbal RSVP, because even Canadians know when it’s too cold to go outside to play hockey.

If you need help organizing a sports event, don’t ask Jake (just kidding)!! Reach out to jake@opensports.ca ❤

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