As another winter comes to an end in Canada, with it comes the end of another hockey season. However, there is one thing that won’t be ending when spring rolls around this year: homelessness.
The annual Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament comes to Durham College again April 5, with the organization looking for public support after a strong debut in the region a year ago.
Players looking to join the cause are required to find a team to play on, usually through the organization’s website, and then pay a $50 registration fee. Additionally, each player must raise a minimum of $200 in charitable donations for the tournament, though fees will also cover custom jerseys for all participants. The one-day event is held at the Campus Ice Centre in Oshawa.
So far in 2018, the tournament has already raised more than $10,000 in cash donations, which will be sent to various homeless shelters and charitable organizations across Oshawa and the surrounding area. While that total is down from a year ago – when the event raised more than $30,000 – organizers remain optimistic given this year’s circumstances.
“Obviously with the strike the semester has been cut a little short, so that’s a challenge we’re trying to overcome,” said Matt DiPasquale, the operations coordinator for the tournament at Durham College. “We’d like to get to the same number [as last year] if possible, so everyone’s doing what they can to make that happen.”
DiPasquale is referring to the Ontario college strike, which lasted for five weeks in October and November. With Sports Management students at Durham College playing a key role in the promotion of the tournament, he says it’s easy to see why the shortened timeframe would affect the amount of donations.
However, he also says the overall body of work HHTH has accomplished is too impressive to ignore. As of 2012, the organization had raised nearly $3.5 million in donations, despite only being founded in 1996. Nearly 60 per cent of that donation money has gone straight to those in need, according to charityintelligence.ca, enough to lift roughly 50 homeless Canadians above the poverty line.
Nearly 150 families in Durham Region alone are listed as under the poverty line, a number that grows to almost 4.8 million on a national scale. In the more extreme cases of homelessness – which DiPasquale describes as people who have been living on the streets for many years – nearly 300 people in the Durham area are affected, with that number reaching 200,000 across the country.
Many factors contribute to homelessness and poverty around the world, but perhaps none more so than the cost of housing in Canada. Since 1992, the average market cost to rent an apartment has risen from roughly $560 to $730 per month nationally, while the amount of affordable housing has relatively remained the same.
DiPasquale says Oshawa and the Durham Region experience this problem just as much as many other Canadian cities, but the area’s history could be part of the reason for its poverty.
“It’s eye-opening to see what these people are struggling with,” he said. “For whatever reason, Oshawa’s been a place that’s had a hard run for some time, so hopefully this tournament is something that can help aid that.”
With hundreds of players participating all across the country every year, the tournament is aiming to do just that. However, they haven’t done it alone, with students representing just one of the groups of volunteers that assist the organization in achieving its goal.
When HHTH announced its inaugural tournament at Durham College last year, members of the Sports Management program were quick to join the cause. That initiative has since expanded to include numerous other programs and people around campus who would like to help.
“The difference between this tournament and a lot of other organizations is just the feel of professionalism,” said Matt Joseph, a Durham College student and registrar for HHTH. “It creates an opportunity for people to contribute, but also to really feel like they’re making a difference.”
It’s that unique experience that Joseph says drew him into the tournament, with the opportunity to play hockey for a day while also raising money for a good cause.
Though registration for this year’s tournament is officially closed, donations can still be made on the organizations website, hockeyhelpsthehomeless.com.