SUMMERSIDE – Dion Phaneuf wanted to give back to a community that is special to him.
The Los Angeles Kings defenceman was the driving force behind an announcement at Credit Union Place on Wednesday afternoon by the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) Goals and Dreams Fund that will have a major impact on youth hockey.
“We are here on behalf of Dion Phaneuf and the entire membership of the NHLPA to make a donation of 25 sets of brand-new equipment to help kids in the Summerside community who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to play the game of hockey, to get on the ice and enjoy the game like these guys did as a kid growing up,” said Matt Langen, manager of community relations for NHLPA Goals and Dreams Fund. “We are here to get more kids playing the game of hockey.”
The Summerside Area Minor Hockey Association (SAMHA) will work in conjunction with the Summerside Boys and Girls Club, Generation XX and the community at large to identify 25 kids in the 11-to 13-year-old age category – boys and girls – who haven’t played hockey before.
The program will run once a week from the middle of October to the end of March.
“The main focus is to introduce them to the sport and grow a skill set and some familiarity to playing the game, and go from there,” said SAMHA president Doug Dexter. “In conjunction with the Western Capitals’ (junior A) hockey team, they will be providing program leadership.”
Capitals general manager Pat McIver said the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) team is “honoured” to have its coaches and players providing on-ice instruction.
“We love helping out, especially with minor hockey,” said McIver. “It’s real easy for us.
“Our guys love it, and the kids look up to our players and it’s an opportunity to give back.”
How did the program end up in Summerside?
“We have an application process, and Dion came to us and said, ‘I would like to be able to give back. I am here in the summer, and is there a way we can help the local community and get more kids playing the game?,’” explained Langen. “He had contacts with Summerside minor hockey, and through communication with them we identified a program that they wanted to start up to help more kids.”
Phaneuf, who spends his summers in the Kensington area, first raised the idea at the start of the 2017-18 season.
“It takes a lot of effort to put the whole plan in place,” admitted Phaneuf, whose parents, Paul and Amber (nee MacArthur) are both Summerside natives. “For me to be able to do this, organize 25 sets of new gear to be handed out to children to start playing the game I love, it’s a special thing for me to be able to do.
“The NHLPA and NHL players have built this program. If you think about the numbers, 70,000 kids getting to start playing hockey is a great accomplishment for us as players (since the Goals and Dreams Fund started in 1999).
“It’s something guys are passionate about. A lot of guys do it, and I’m very fortunate I have been able to get it here in Summerside and do this.”