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Hockey fighting York Region homelessness, raises over $290,000

Pros to play along fundraisers at the Magna Centre Dec. 9
Hockey Helps the Homeless is returning to the Magna Centre Dec. 9.

York Region hockey enthusiasts have banded together to raise more than $290,000 to combat homelessness.

The annual Hockey Helps the Homeless event is returning to Newmarket Dec. 9, with 16 teams fundraising for charities Blue Door shelters and 360 Kids. After peer funding for the past several weeks, the teams will play in friendly games at the Magna Centre alongside 17 former pro players. 

Hockey Helps the Homeless Ontario manager of hockey operations Erik Luczak said it has been an excellent campaign so far.

“Coming out of COVID and the pandemic last year, this was one of the events that was forced to pivot … We’re excited to see the event return to relative normalcy this year,” he said. “The funds raised, the organizations that we support, their work is needed now more than ever.” 

The national charity, which began in York Region in 1996, runs tournaments to support other local charities across the province and country. Participants get the opportunity to play in a three-game tournament alongside NHL and professional alumni. The York Region event will include NHL alumni Wendel Clark, Georges Laraque, and international hockey star Angela James, among others. 

Hockey Helps the Homeless has pledged to raise $1 million for the housing and homeless organization Blue Door, which it first partnered with in 2020. 

“We are so grateful to Hockey Helps the Homeless for this incredible support of York Region’s most vulnerable,” Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite said in an update on the Blue Door website. “This historic gift will enable Blue Door to add new units of housing to help house the over 500 people they work with to find housing each year.”

The 16 teams will draft their pro players today ahead of the event on Friday. The teams will play three games each before a post-event reception, with Mayor John Taylor also due to make an appearance during the festivities.

Newmarket has been increasingly challenged by homelessness in recent months. Combating it is a cause well worth supporting, Luczak said.

“The challenge of homelessness has no bias. It affects everyone from every walk of life, directly or indirectly, and now more than ever,” he said. 

You can donate to the York Region event through the website. All funds raised locally stay in the local area.