What is the PHL?
There is a look of sheer terror that comes across a five-year-old’s face when, geared up in hockey equipment for the first time, the child peers through the door at a massive ice surface dotted with colourful jerseys. Not far behind stands a worried parent, uncertain whether the child’s experience is going to end before skates hit the ice. Then something remarkable happens. A volunteer coach arrives from the other end of the rink to reassure and guide the fledgling player. By the time the session ends, the child has a smile that stretches from ear to ear. The Pond Hockey League (PHL), sees this scenario played out each fall as kids take to the ice for what has become a significant program in the community. Volunteer coaches, ranging from school teachers to investment advisors, spend their Saturdays helping girls and boys to get their skates and sticks to all go in the same direction. The PHL, a combination of skills development and shinny, gives kids a chance to experience hockey, some for the first time, others for whom minor hockey or another competitive league does not fit. PHL kids come from every background imaginable, but once they are on the ice the colourful jerseys remove differences of race, colour and capacity and provide a barrier-free environment. Hockey is just the conduit for a more important message. The real action happens at centre ice when the skating stops mid-game as kids and coaches share about what it means to be a part of a team. It’s those ten minute positive life messages make the most impact on kids. Rather than stories about first goals and missed chances, the talk in the dressing room after the game is about the joy of being on a team that accepts everyone. Volunteers serve kids each week as families cheer, encourage, laugh and celebrate together. Visitor reaction to the PHL is always the same: Why don’t our games look like that? or Everybody is having a great time. What’s the secret? or best of all Where can I sign up?
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