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Newmarket hockey community comes together to donate equipment for First Nations kids

Drop off your donations at the Magna Centre Sept. 11 to 12 and Sept. 18 to 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The York Simcoe Express (YSE) hockey association is holding an equipment drive in September to collect hockey equipment for First Nations communities. 

On Sept. 11 and 12 and then again on Sept. 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, volunteers will be collecting hockey equipment at the Magna Centre in Newmarket. 

The initiative has been organized by hockey mom Jackie Tranter, who is the director of community relations on the YSE board.

Tranter said her family has been collecting winter coats and clothing to donate to people in need for several years now and recently was being asked about donating used hockey gear, too. 

“Obviously, there’s a lot of hockey equipment that doesn’t get used or the kids outgrow it,” she said. 

Tranter got in touch with Graham McWaters, a hockey dad from Richmond Hill who launched the First Nations Hockey Equipment Drive in 2015. 

Through this organization, McWaters has collected thousands of bags, hockey sticks, and other gear for First Nations communities who wouldn’t be able to access them otherwise. 

"I believe that if you can put someone into sports, it takes them away from all the other activities that are negative and it makes them a healthier and smarter person because now they’re part of a team, they’re getting exercise, there’s a discipline factor to being part of a team, being out in the fresh air,” McWater said. 

He also said it's a great volunteer opportunity for hockey kids to take part in, remembering one young donor in York Region especially. 

"One day we were picking up the equipment in Thornhill and inside the top of a hockey bag you can put your name or what team you play for or your number. It’s like a little plastic see-through thing. Some child wrote—you could tell it was someone that was very young because of the way the letters were written—‘may all your dreams come true with this stuff'. I got a tear when I first read it," he said. 

McWaters and his organization are now going to start helping other people in other provinces and other countries, including the United States, set up similar hockey drives for their First Nations communities. 

He is also preparing to send all the gear collected over the past two years to Thunder Bay and other northern communities. 

Then the upcoming drives in Newmarket will kick start the next round of collections, while also providing the hockey community with a chance to give back. 

“We’re very fortunate and a lot of hockey families know that they’re fortunate,” Tranter said. “Everyone wants to give back to try to help out for the better of the sport.”

She said it also makes sure that good equipment isn’t going to waste and teaches the kids to help out, too. 

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said. 

The local initiative was brought to the attention of Newmarket Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh.  

“Hockey is a great but very expensive sport to participate in,” Vegh said. “The first step to participation is to remove the financial barrier that the cost of equipment represents. As a direct result of Newmarket residents donating their used equipment, hundreds of First Nations kids will be able to play for the first time.”

Vegh has joined with Tranter and McWaters to help organize the drive and is inviting residents to drop off their equipment on the donation days. 

They are asking the community to bring: 

  • Sticks
  • Shoulder Pads
  • Hockey Pants
  • Skates
  • Elbow Pads
  • Gloves
  • Shin Pads
  • Helmets
  • Goalie Pads and other protective equipment

They are unable to accept any soft gear like jerseys, socks, jocks, or any other under garments. 

Donations will be collected in a drive-by style with COVID-19 protocols in place. 

McWaters will be on hand to help implement his sorting system for all the equipment coming in. 

He said if someone drops off a hockey bag full of stuff they will open it up, take out anything they can't donate and then sort the items into piles.

Once they have sizeable piles, the will put the items back into the donated bags, such as one bag of skates, one of pants, and more. 

The bags will be trucked off to their storage facility in Barrie, where they store the donations until they can be sent out after a year of collecting. 

Kids coming by the Newmarket equipment drive are encouraged to wear their jerseys and represent their local hockey team when they come to drop off their gear.


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Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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