The players on coach Colin Melnyk’s peewee A3 team from the North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association have been hard at work over the past month trying to win a prestigious competition.
The contest, however, has nothing to do with shooting pucks or playing defence.
The team has been taking one day a week for the past month to rack up points for the 2018/2019 Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup, a competition that encourages peewee hockey teams from across Canada to perform good deeds in their community and then send in a short video of their exploits. The winning team will earn $100,000 for the charity of their choice.
That’s a lot of cash for a good cause, but for his team the contest has little to do with the prizes and everything to do with the internal rewards of helping out in the community, said Melnyk.
“I’ve got a really awesome, nice group of boys,” he said. “They are just having so much fun. The camaraderie that they are experiencing together doing this is awesome. The team building is awesome. When you take 10-, 11-, 12-year-old boys and give them a little bit of confidence and you pump their tires up a bit and you give them some positive energy, they just go with it. They don’t know anything else to do.”
The team started by scraping together some allowance money and buying food to donate to the food bank. Melnyk made sure each player sent him a photo with donations in hand. The next week the boys were tasked with collecting some of their own gently used clothing and donating that, again with photographic proof to be used in the team’s video.
The third week saw the players don their jerseys and head out into the community, stopping at North Vancouver’s Lookout Shelter where they spent two and a half hours sorting, bagging and labelling a year’s worth of donations to be distributed to shelters around the Lower Mainland. They ended their Cup quest with a visit to North Vancouver’s Harvest Project where they talked with employees about the causes and effects of poverty and then spent two hours sorting out food donations.
The initiative was meant to teach the boys to be good citizens, not just good hockey players.
“I call it ‘making Canadians,’” said Melnyk. “If you’re living in North Vancouver and you’re playing hockey, you’re a pretty privileged kid. And it’s really rewarding for me to see the kids being able to appreciate where they’re coming from, what they’re doing and giving back to the community, to see them growing along those lines. It’s not just about hockey and spraying water on your buddy in the dressing room, it’s about giving back to your community, feeling good about yourself – the full circle.”
As a bonus, the team building and bonding that has taken place during the process has translated to better play on the ice as well, said Melnyk.
“They’re dominating right now, the last few games that they’ve been doing these deeds,” he said. “I’m trying to teach them to stay in the middle of the road – you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. As long as you are doing good things you can feel good about yourself.”
The team is now putting together their video, with the help of a talented older brother who has taken film classes, for submission to the Good Deeds Cup. The entry deadline is Jan. 2, and while that doesn’t leave much more time for good deeding, Melnyk is encouraging other teams from across the North Shore to get involved.
“A lot of people have misconceptions about hockey and the value that team sports truly brings to people’s lives, to kids’ lives,” he said. “These types of things is what it’s all about for us coaches. It’s not all about winning or the power play or the penalty kill or scoring goals – they’ve got to have a good, wholesome experience and they learn how to operate within a group of people. … These kids are really impressionable at this age, so the value that it’s going to bring to their lives in the long term is a really good thing.”