Newcomer families in B.C.’s Okanagan receive free gear and lessons to help their kids learn hockey

With free gear and lessons, kids from newcomer families in B.C.'s Okanagan are learning to play hockey

“An Ice Hockey Charity Extends a Hand to Newcomer Kids in Canada”

Hockey is at the very heart of Canadian culture, but for many newcomer families, the sport remains out of reach. However, in British Columbia’s Okanagan, a Canadian charity aims to change that narrative. Hockey 4 Youth has launched the 16-week Larry Kwong Memorial Program, which seeks to provide ice skating and hockey lessons to newcomer students at Mission Hill Elementary School in Vernon, B.C. Their mission? To break barriers, and afford these kids an opportunity to embrace and enjoy Canada’s favorite pastime. This initiative couldn’t come at a better time and is poised to change the lives of many kids who may have gone without the chance to try the sport otherwise.

Overcoming Exclusion Barriers

Founder Moezine Hasham, the mastermind behind Hockey 4 Youth, acknowledges the financial burden associated with participating in hockey, estimating the annual costs at a staggering $4,000. He firmly believes that all kids should have access to the sport, regardless of their economic status or their background. According to Hasham, a 2014 report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship suggests that 71% of new citizens expressed an interest in hockey, with just 1% having the actual opportunity to experience it. While the numbers have since improved, barriers to participation remain a real issue.

Connecting With the Community

Hasham’s own personal history is what drives his passion for this initiative. His family came to Canada as refugees from Uganda, and it was through hockey that he built a connection with the community and forged his identity as a Canadian. He understands how crucial it is for these kids to feel a sense of belonging and to be involved in community activities. And this is precisely what Hockey 4 Youth aims to offer: an opportunity for the kids to feel included and to revel in the joy of playing hockey without financial obstacles.

Empowering Newcomer Children

For young participants like Mia Peng and Ashema Facey, Hockey 4 Youth has become a platform for them to take on new experiences and gain courage. These kids are getting the chance to hone their skating skills and slowly overcome the fears of stepping out onto the ice. The program is truly transcendent as it affords the kids a sense of accomplishment and excitement, allowing them to access a quintessential Canadian experience.

A Heartfelt Endeavor

The Hockey 4 Youth initiative is a collaborative effort, with generous sponsorship from the Canucks for Kids fund. The program has also been named in honor of local legend Larry Kwong, the first person of color to play in the NHL. His daughter, Kristina Heintz, expressed her deep emotional connection to the program, noting that hockey profoundly transformed her father’s life. Seeing these newcomer kids benefit from the same sport that meant so much to her father holds an extraordinary, emotional significance for her. As the kids take to the ice, she remains hopeful that this endeavor will open future opportunities for them in their new Canadian home.

As the popularity of the program grows, it has become apparent that hockey has the power to create a unique, unifying experience that can bridge barriers and foster a sense of community among newcomer families in Canada. The vision that Hockey 4 Youth embodies shines a light on the potential for change and inclusion in Canadian hockey.



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