The puck drops tonight on the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Start Talking Cup, which highlights battles both on and off ice by raising awareness about mental health.
The Holly Community Centre will be the home for the fifth annual event, with the bantam 'AA' Barrie Sharks taking on the Aurora Panthers followed by the traditional rivalry game between the minor midget 'AAA' Barrie Colts and the North Central Predators.
Liz Grummett, manager of resource development for the CMHA, says the Holly Community Centre is a new site for the games, but will provide a different feel for all involved.
“This year, we’re at the Holly rec centre as opposed to the Barrie Molson Centre and we feel it is going to be a great fit for the games,” Grummett said. “The decision was made from a logistics view as the BMC is so spread out and we wanted a more intimate feel for the parents, players and fans in attendance.”
The Start Talking Cup combines hockey and mental-health awareness by having teams playing a regular-season game while also having the CMHA staff and volunteers on hand to discuss mental-health issues and hand out pamphlets with information.
The players also meet with CMHA representatives and learn more about the signs of depression and how to handle issues with their friends and themselves.
“We have two youth counsellors who come talk to the kids and do a workshop with them, sometimes in the dressing room,” said Grummett. “They talk about what mental health is, what mental illness is, what are some symptoms and how do we keep ourselves well, all the things a teenager nowadays really needs to know.
"They teach the kids to open up and talk and listen to others who might need to talk," she added.
Nicholas Dowlings is a forward with the Predators and loves to play hockey, but even at age 15, he recognizes the importance of meeting with someone and talking about the issues teenagers deal with.
“It's hard to manage schoolwork and hockey at the same time,” said Dowlings. “Hockey five times a week, then all your projects or tests to study for, so it can be hard to deal with at times and that could lead to problems with mental health, for sure.”
Predators alternate captain Cole Quevillon says he's excited to play in the big game and knows that while it is for a good cause, there are points at stake and the rival Colts will be tough.
But the Grade 10 student believes this is the year the Colts' winning streak gets snapped.
“It is fun, you get to support a good cause and you get to play a regular-season game that has a big-game feel to it,” said Quevillon.
“It is always tough to play Barrie anytime because they’re a good team, but when you add in all the emotions and hype of this event, the game is even tougher," he added. "They always give us a good go, but I feel like we should be good this year.”
The doors for tonight's Start Talking Cup open at 5:30 p.m. with puck drop at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $5, with proceeds going to assist in mental health initiatives in the community.