Hockey players faced off in Barrie on Friday to help the homeless.
The tournament, Hockey Helps the Homeless is a national campaign, raising money and awareness for homeless support agencies. Organizers say this program provides an opportunity to dispel the misconceptions of homelessness.
"So if we can use hockey, which is such an amazing game; it's our national pass time, to bring awareness to this cause, and ultimately create more advocates for the homeless then our mission has been accomplished," says Founder and CEO of Hockey Helps the Homeless, Gary Scullion.
Founded in 1996, the tournament gives pick-up players the opportunity to lace up with the pros for a day, while helping local charities.
"It’s the one thing that I really appreciate, is that it’s very local and the money that we raise here today, will go to local charities here in Barrie," says former NHL player and hall of famer Mike Gartner.
Those charities are the David Busby Street Centre and Redwood Park Communities – both will benefit from the roughly $80,000 raised on Friday.
"Homelessness affects a lot of people, not just people on the street, but there's many working families that just can't afford to live,” says Timothy Kent of Redwood Park Communities. “They don't have enough money to pay rent or enough money to cover the mortgage."
Since 1996, Hockey Helps the Homeless has raised over $8 million for agencies across Canada. Roughly 15 tournaments are held in communities each year, and this is the first time it has taken place in Barrie.
"We live in a wonderful country, hockey is our game, we're fortunate people,” says former NHL player Troy Crowder. “So if you can give back and help people who really need a helping hand, it's a great cause.”
It's a day with a serious message, and while fundraising is a big part of this game, many on Friday admit, it's pretty fun to play with the pros.
"I’ve been watching NHL for 65 years, so it's great to be able to play with them now,” says hockey player Doug Barnes. “So it's was good, I really enjoyed it."
Hockey Helps the Homeless will raise roughly $3 million this year across Canada.