Few hockey fans know what it’s like to experience the adrenaline of being on the ice competing alongside NHL-caliber players. This spring, for the first time in Peel Region, amateur adult players of various levels will have a rare opportunity to experience the rush, the excitement and the joy of playing with approachable NHL alumni for a fabulous cause.

Founded in 1996, Hockey Helps the Homeless is a national organization which hosts friendly hockey tournaments across the country to raise money to end homelessness in Canada. More than 200 NHL greats and Olympic gold medalists have participated in its tournaments. On May 26, it will host a fun tournament at the Iceland Arena in Mississauga, located across from the Hershey Centre.

On the heels of the announcement, Hockey Helps the Homeless executive director Ryan Baillie was especially excited that adult amateur players in Peel Region will be able to experience this unique event and help the cause.

“I think people will really get behind this,” he said.  “Overall, we’d like to provide $100,000. The funds will stay local and that’s important.”

The all-day fantasy hockey tournament gives individuals a chance to play with hockey greats and raise funds to address the needs of the estimated 250,000 people who experience homelessness in Canada each year. Adult amateurs can sign up as individuals or as a team. A professional player will participate on each team. The day includes a welcome breakfast, lunch, and post-tournament reception. For more information, enthusiasts can visit the organization’s website www.HockeyHelpsTheHomeless.com to either register or volunteer.

Brad May, an NHL alumnus who played more than 1,000 professional hockey games and a significant portion of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, is excited to be among the professionals attending and is very passionate about the cause. He noted that NHL alumni especially enjoy these tournaments.

“The event is really well run and I’m looking forward to participating,” he said. “It’s always a great day to play hockey with some really nice people. No spouse should object to anyone playing in this event because players are sure to lose a few pounds.”

“No one should be homeless in Canada,” he added. “It’s staggering how many people are homeless and struggle. We have to have compassion, a spirit among ourselves and raise money to help these people.”

Funds raised from the event will go toward a renovation project in Caledon initiated by Raising the Roof, the national non-profit which initiates long-term solutions to end homelessness, and CAFFI, the Caledon Association for Families in Transition. The heritage home, owned by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), has been vacant for thirteen years.

Executive director Michael Braithwaite explained.

“The build time for new is so much longer,” he said. “This way, we can renovate for less money, faster.”

The goal is to have clients in the home by the end of this year. Much of the work will be done by Building Up, a non-profit construction contractor which trains and employs people looking for work with construction unions.

In addition to players from Peel Region, hockey amateurs from Etobicoke, Burlington and Oakville are encouraged to participate. At least ten teams will take part in the fun day.

A registered charity for more than 20 years, Hockey Helps the Homeless has raised more than $9 million for homeless initiatives. Great-West Life is its national sponsor. In addition to the Peel Region tournament, multiple events are held throughout the year across the country, as far west as Vancouver and as far east as Halifax – which will be held for the first time this year.

“The organization is continuing to grow,” said Baillie. “The Halifax tournament in November 2018 will assist homeless veterans through Vets Canada.”

Peel Region has support services available for people who are or at risk of homelessness. According to their website, services include emergency and transitional shelters, street outreach, support services and help to find permanent housing. Anyone wanting more info can call 905-793-9200 or visit www.peelregion.ca/housing/shelters.