WOLFVILLE, N.S. – A local hockey team is working to address bullying on, and off, the ice to make the sport a better game for all players.
Joe Macdonald is the head coach of the Acadia Axemen PeeWee C hockey team, which has entered the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup competition. Teams work to make a difference in their community while vying to win $100,000 to donate to a local charity.
Macdonald says his players are focusing on anti-bullying awareness this year, since it’s something that happens often at the arena.
“We felt it was something we see every game, and not just on the ice – players say things, but parents can also yell at referees. We’re hoping this will make everyone think twice about what they say,” says Macdonald.
“We want the arena to be a continuous revolving door of everyone enjoying themselves.”
Owen Smiley, 12, plays centre on the team and is one of the players helping to spread the team’s anti-bullying message.
He says hockey players, and especially younger ones, “often don’t necessarily know they should speak up when bullying happens.”
The team has made presentations to younger players in dressing rooms before their games, and Smiley says the younger ones “are always very attentive and very energetic” when they present to them.
“Hopefully if they experience bullying, they’ll at least know what to do and to not be a bully. That can have repercussions,” says Smiley.
Macdonald says the team is handing out pamphlets to both players and parents at games and wearing pink hats and T-shirts because “it’s not just players who bully others – parents yell at referees and others, too – and it really happens everywhere.”
He says the campaign aims to make hockey an enjoyable experience for all players, and
players are even wearing their pink gear to their respective schools one day each week to bring their message to classmates.
“It shows everyone that our team is there for them. When they see those pink shirts, it lets the kids know they can come to our team – we are here for you. This also means we’re not just hitting one spot at a time, this awareness is now reaching all their schools,” says Macdonald.
The team has submitted their application and will find out this month whether they’re selected as finalists. If they win, Macdonald says the team has already decided to choose among “the local charities helping children.”
Smiley says winning the competition would “be really great for us,” and says the team is “proud of the hard work we’ve put in.”
“It would be good to know we’ve helped the community, and donating $100,000 to a charity would just help the community even more,” he says.
“It would be phenomenal.”