The Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) has announced a new Player Assist Program to help hockey players under the age of 7 by providing equipment, including skates, shin pads, pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, neck guards and helmets. This new pilot project is to help families who may be feeling the pinch because of COVID-19. The program will eliminate the cost of equipment for 350 hockey families across 10 minor hockey associations. This program is a partnership with OMHA and the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO)
Local minor hockey associations will apply to be one of the 10 associations for the pilot project based on meeting a number of criteria. The associations will retain the 350 sets of equipment at the conclusion of the hockey season to loan to players in following years, similar to loaning out a library book.
“Cost is sometimes identified as a barrier for some families to get involved in our great game. We thank our partner the Egg Farmers of Ontario for launching this initiative to help hundreds of families for years to come,” says OMHA Executive Director Ian Taylor.
Since 2018-19, the EFO has supported the OMHA’s Playdowns where more than 31,000 minor hockey players compete on 6750 teams from January through March. With Playdowns unable to take place this year because of the pandemic, the EFO wanted to support OMHA participants in a new way.
“The pandemic has taken a toll on Canadian families and hit them in the pocketbook. Families are going to have to make some difficult choices in terms of how they spend their money going forward. We want to help hundreds of young people around the province enter the game without the barrier of having to purchase equipment,” says Scott Helps, Chair of EFO.
The new Player Assist Program is similar to the OMHA’s Goalie Assist Program, which the OMHA has also announced will continue for its 10th year. That program loans out CCM goalie equipment to associations, which allows 5-7-year-old players to try out the position without the burden of making a full financial commitment.
In the past decade, the program has provided 480 full sets of goalie equipment with associations retaining the equipment at the end of the season to loan to players in the following years. This season, there were 156 applications received from OMHA member associations, with 80 sets distributed across the province.
“The Goalie Assist program has given hundreds of young players a chance to get between the pipes and to see what it’s like to be a goalie without their families having to make a big financial commitment. We have heard stories about how many of them have fallen in love with the position,” says Taylor.
Each goalie kit is equipped with a set of CCM youth pads, catcher/blocker, stick, chest protector and bag. Catching hands and sticks are available with common left/right combinations.
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association, founded in 1935, is a leader in community sport and oversees a participant base of more than 300,000, consisting of players, coaches, trainers, officials, hockey volunteers and parents across the province. The OMHA works with its 225 local minor hockey associations and annually coordinates 28 leagues to create the best minor hockey experience in Canada.
For more information, visit http://www.omha.net.