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HELPERS: Newmarket teacher passes hockey passion to kids new to the sport

27 kids from Maple Leaf Public School are getting a chance to try the sport, with a team of supporters across the community behind them

Newmarket resident Jay Maor has long had a passion for hockey.

The Maple Leaf Public School teacher said he has played it for more than four decades and has a basement dedicated to the sport. He has long sought to inspire that passion in others and jumped at the opportunity to do so when he heard about a grant. 

“It’s always about trying to ignite that same kind of passion to keep going and keep playing,” he said. “Number 1, it’s about having fun with your buddies. And number 2, it’s about making sure the kids want to come back.” 

Major and other volunteers have been running a Learn to Play Hockey program in Newmarket for several weeks, teaching 27 kids from the school about the sport. With a grant from Hockey Canada, Major and other volunteers got the kids geared up to play hockey on the ice.

The six-week program wraps up April 27. Major said it has made a noticeable difference to the kids.

“Self-confidence is a big piece of it,” he said. “There are several kids that are in the program that certainly have challenges in social settings, in academic settings, and we don’t see that on the ice, which I find fascinating. It’s a totally different environment and a different vibe.” 

The grant is aimed at getting kids from marginalized communities into the game who may not otherwise be able to afford it, Major said. Kids involved include those from grades 2 to 6, none of whom had ever played hockey before. 

“We wanted to approach this as a way for new Canadians, also marginalized groups, to have an opportunity to play the game and get out on ice,” he said. 

Brent Caddock, a longtime friend of Major, is also running the program locally. He said it has been great to watch the children's progress.

“The smiles, the laughter, out having fun,” he said. “Perseverance is the biggest thing. Just nobody quitting and hearing the kids say, ‘I can’t wait to come back the following week.'"

Others have also been involved, with the Town of Newmarket providing some ice time for the kids.

Tracee Chambers is a volunteer who helped co-ordinate that. She said the program is a great thing for the kids.

“Anytime you get the blessing of an adult in your life who's enthusiastic, encourages you, pumps you up, then that’s a blessing,” she said. “For a lot of kids, sports is the ticket (to that), but they don’t always get to participate."

Local businesses have also pitched in with discounts to help the program, Major said.

Major said the cost of hockey can be a frustrating barrier, but they hope to help the kids continue on with it. He said he has given families with kids hoping to continue playing hockey information about financial assistance programs, and may even lend out some of the equipment for them to continue.

But they also hope they can work out logistics to continue the program in the future, with the equipment now in their ownership.

“Hockey emulates a lot of situations in life,” Major said. “That idea of starting off brand new and not being able to do something. Seeing that succession as they progressed, I think that’s a valuable life skill.” 

The program will have a wrap-up event at the Magna Centre April 27, where the kids will play their first full game with player introductions. It is open to the public and begins at 9:15 a.m., with the program hoping to have a crowd to cheer the kids on.

The program is also looking for corporate sponsors that can help cover costs for next season. Those interested can email


Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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