ESPANOLA—Earlier this month, 40 young hockey players received the opportunity of a lifetime when they were chosen by JumpStart Charities (Canadian Tire) of Northeastern Ontario, and Hockey Canada to be outfitted head to toe in new hockey equipment, have their registrations paid for the year and celebrate with a fun on-ice session with players from the new Junior A team, the Espanola Express.

Chris Bright, director of recruitment programs for Hockey Canada, explained that 40 children were chosen from Espanola and Manitoulin with just over 30 of those children coming from the Island, representing five different hockey organizations.

This is a very big deal for those Island youths, as this happens only two or three times a year nation-wide, depending on available funding.

“We were looking to come back to Ontario, and as we had primarily been in southern Ontario before that and we reached out to the Northern Ontario Hockey Association,” Mr. Bright explained. He noted that Canadian Tire and its JumpStart Charities had a large footprint in the area and so the Espanola/Manitoulin region was chosen.

“We had great support from Espanola Minor Hockey, the Espanola Express, Bauer Hockey Equipment and the Canadian Tire Espanola staff too,” he added. “It was a very large community effort.”

Those chosen to receive this generous gift were first vetted through a JumpStart application which showed that the child’s family needed some assistance.

“We were thrilled to be in that community and it was nice to have the Junior team as a part of it,” Mr. Bright enthused.

Following the handing out of the equipment, the young players headed to the Express change room to have help from the senior players to size and tape their new hockey sticks.

“The Junior team got a great opportunity to give back and remember where they came from—that was a first for us,” the Hockey Canada rep added.