It’s Hockey Day in Canada today. This year’s annual celebration of our national winter sport is in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, host of a day-long national broadcast on CBC and Sportsnet that will feature all seven Canadian NHL teams in action. The day will also be a special one for a group of young Orillia hockey players.
The Orillia Terriers atom A team defeated a girls’ hockey team from Vancouver in the Heroes of Hockey Day reality series that aired this season during Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey games on Sportsnet. The victory landed the Terriers an all-expenses paid trip to The Rock and an opportunity to be featured in today's Hockey Day in Canada festivities.
The Terriers landed on the radar of Sportsnet after the team rallied around Grayson Gillespie, a nine-year-old Gravenhurst boy who endured two operations on his heart before he was nine months old. By the time he was almost two, his little heart had failed and he suffered multiple strokes and seizures. Doctors told the shell-shocked family that the only remedy was a heart transplant. Grayson received his new heart in June of 2011 and today, thankfully, he is healthy.
But he is unable to play a contact sport like hockey. So, when Dallyn Telford, the coach of the minor atom Terriers, heard about Grayson’s harrowing journey, he challenged the players on his team to participate in a unique summer project aimed at developing the youths’ work ethic while encouraging them to think beyond themselves.
The players were challenged to work – for $5 an hour – doing chores and jobs for family and friends. Each player on the team was asked to work 40 hours to raise $200 during the summer. It was up to the coaches to find a worthy cause to donate those funds. They chose Grayson.
“The idea was to raise enough money that he could go, with his family, to the Air Canada Centre to watch a Toronto Maple Leafs game,” said team manager Michelle Robitaille. “We wanted to provide a limo for the trip, a hotel – the whole deal. And that’s what the kids did.”
After an article about the team’s selfless act was published in The Packet & Times, it was picked up by The Hockey News. Producers at Sportsnet found out and, eventually, the Terriers were chosen as one of two teams from across Canada to participate in The 5th Season promotion.
The Heroes of Hockey Day is a reality series that involves the two teams participating in several hockey-related challenges that test the players’ ability to work together as a team. The local players met and were on the ice with NHL legends Lanny McDonald and Darcy Tucker, current star P.K. Subban, women’s hockey star Cassie Campbell and MacLean.
And today, they will participate in Hockey Day in Canada. So, as you watch the action on TV today, be sure to keep an eye out for some familiar faces.