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  • Saturday, January 22, 2000

    Huge hit for little kids

    Generosity will give underprivileged children a day at the rink

    By TONY MARASCHIELLO -- Toronto Sun

      While the NHL's top stars are preparing to strut their stuff at the Air Canada Centre, some Toronto-area kids are getting ready to skate for the first time.

     As part of grass-roots hockey activities leading up to the 50th NHL all-star game on Feb. 6, several businesses in the Greater Toronto Area are collecting used equipment which they will donate to about 300 underprivileged children.

     The kids, ages seven to 12, have been invited a week from tomorrow to Maple Leaf Gardens, where they will be fitted with the equipment and take part in a full day of hockey-related activities. Most of the children belong to various boys and girls clubs in the Toronto area.

     NICE IDEA

     The idea to collect the equipment was that of Jeff Potter and Dave Beaton, managers of the Just Hockey stores.

     "We thought the all-star game would be a perfect opportunity to expose these kids to hockey," Potter said. "A lot of them will be hitting the ice for the first time. When we approached the NHL with our idea they loved it. It has taken off from there."

     The used-equipment drive started this past Wednesday and runs until Friday. Skates, shoulder pads, gloves, pants, shin pads, elbow pads and helmets can be dropped off at any of the three Just Hockey locations (900 Don Mills Rd., 370 Steeles Ave. West and the Vaughan Ice Plex at Jane and Highway 7).

     The equipment drive truly has been a group effort. Just Hockey is providing sticks for the kids, while Playclean Sports will wash and sterilize all of the shoulder pads and other protective equipment.

     The Toronto Police Academy will send volunteers to the Gardens to help the kids lace up their skates and buckle their chin straps.

     And Toronto Maple Leafs equipment manager Brian Papineau is donating use of the team's skate-sharpening machine to prepare the skates.

     As well, former Boston Bruin Willie O'Ree will be on hand to provide skills tips.

     "It is going to be a great opportunity for these kids," said O'Ree, the NHL's director of youth development. "We have been doing this in the inner cities in the U.S. and it is our first time doing it in Canada."

     Potter said while any and all used equipment would be appreciated, there is a great need for skates, especially youth sizes between 10 to six.

     "We are hoping that once the event is over, the various community centres and boys and girls clubs can keep the equipment and use it over and over again," Potter said. "It would be nice if this can become an annual event."

     ALL-STAR TOURNEY: The NHL all-star game minor-hockey tournament started yesterday in the GTA with close to 200 house-league teams from novice to peewee taking part.

     More than 3,500 players are involved in games this weekend at the Canlan Ice Sports rinks in Etobicoke, Oakville, Oshawa and Scarborough.

     The divisional finals are tomorrow, with the winning teams advancing to the championship round at Maple Leaf Gardens a week from today.

     JUNIOR GESTURE: Former members of Canada's under-18 team, which won gold at the world championships in 1998 in the Czech Republic, announced this week they will donate $30,000 to minor-hockey associations throughout the country.

     The players received the money from the Upper Deck Company after taking part in an autograph session.

     In the GTA, Mike Zigomanis of the Kingston Frontenacs donated $2,000 to the Scarborough Cougars, Unionville Jets and Markham Minor Hockey.



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