by Daniel Fink | AHL On The Beat
The month of December was a busy time for the Manitoba Moose both on and off the ice.
Each year, the team focuses on giving back to the community around the holiday season, and 2018 was no exception.
The Moose took time to visit Siloam Mission, a local drop-in centre, spend an evening with minor hockey teams throughout the Winnipeg area, and collect donations of toys and food at two home games during the month.
The team split into two groups for their visit at the downtown resource centre, drop-in and shelter. The first crew rolled into the kitchen to prepare food for breakfast and lunch, as well as work the serving line for breakfast. The second crew dispersed into the dining room to help community members with anything from serving meals, to refilling coffee and clearing plates.
Whether behind the counter in the kitchen, or out on the floor, the morning gave Moose players an opportunity to spend time and chat with members of the community using Siloam Mission’s services. According to Moose captain Peter Stoykewych, a common interest brought everyone together.
“You get to see the passion people have for hockey. It was nice to be able to come here and interact with a lot of the people and have conversations with people we’ve never met before. They’re just as passionate about hockey as everyone else here in the city and I’m glad we were able to find something in common to chat about.”
The Moose have visited Siloam Mission each year since the team made its return to Winnipeg in 2015. Stoykewych is always impressed by what he sees the volunteers contributing to the Winnipeg community.
“It’s great to come back every year. It’s something we take a lot pride in. You have a lot of respect for the people who do this year-round. Obviously we’re only here once a year, but you see the good they do for the community and it’s nice to be a part of it, even just for one morning.”
Siloam Mission chief executive officer Jim Bell was on hand to see the team working around the facility. A goaltender in his younger years, Bell enjoyed seeing the energy the players brought as they worked around the kitchen and dining room.
“It means everything… to us as an organization, to the people who walk in our building on an everyday basis, but particularly today. Everyone saw the energy with the team in the room and Red River Co-op here. It just means everything. There are a lot of sports fans who walk in our building every day, very knowledgeable, very interested… passionate about the team and I saw some of the interaction.”
During the month of November, Moose fans donated 1,446 pounds of winter clothing to Siloam Mission through the Share the Warmth Campaign presented by Red River Co-op.
From the kitchen, and back onto the ice, the Moose spread out around the city to spend an evening with local minor hockey teams, skating with the youth and signing autographs as part of the Community Practice Series presented by Intact Insurance. The team visited six community rinks for an evening of fun.
Forward Tye McGinn stopped by the St. Norbert Arena, just outside the city, to skate with the South Winnipeg Storm. The veteran of eight professional seasons was excited to see the passion for the game on display by the youngsters.
“The game of hockey is a great game, and it’s good to see the next generation of kids is definitely enjoying the game as much as we did when we were kids. Just to pass on what we know, a little bit can go a long way. It’s definitely inspiring and fun to be here.”
The Moose host youth hockey players from the Timbits Hockey program at most of their home games to play on the ice at Bell MTS Place during intermissions. However, the Community Practice Series gave the minor hockey players a chance to get up close and personal with their more advanced counterparts. It was an opportunity McGinn feels both sides benefited from.
“When we first came out on the ice, the smiles on their faces were just heartwarming. It puts everything we do every day in perspective and brings back a love of the game.”
While Moose players were taking the time to give back, they also got something out of the experience. Following their stop at Siloam Mission, Stoykewych mentioned relishing the opportunity to spend time with his teammates in a new setting.
“You learn a lot about people when you get away from the rink and you get to see them in different environments. You could see the upbeat attitude and the positivity that was flowing through the kitchen and the building here today.”
The generosity of Winnipeggers was on full display throughout the holiday season with the Moose hosting their annual Teddy Bear Toss and Shutout Hunger food drive, both presented by Red River Co-op. With a 97 per cent capacity combined attendance of 17,191 through the two games, fans donated a franchise record 2,930 plush toys to the Christmas Cheer Board on Dec. 15 and 2,800 pounds of food to the Manitoba Association of Food Banks on Dec. 31.
From the players on the ice, to the fans in the stands and corporate partners, pride in the community is something everyone involved with the Manitoba Moose can share.