Sorry for the lack of an update this morning — my flight from Toronto to Ottawa was delayed and re-routed (through Quebec City of all places) because of fog.
So the NHLPA has taken a lot of criticism and been at the center of a lot of bad press lately because of the power struggle at the top of the organization. That said, I went to an event last night at the Hockey Hall of Fame that feted a program from the NHLPA that is geninuely remarkable and deserves way more recognition than it has recieved.
The NHLPA “Goals and Dreams” program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and to properly do so the NHLPA sent a contingent of representatives, including former players P.J. Stock and Rob Zamuner, to 10 different countries in 10 days to deliver about $180,000 worth of hockey equipment to underprivileged youth.
They made stops in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia, Germany, New York and last night was the final stop in Toronto. I urge people to go to the PA’s website and check out the blog entires. pictures and videos about the trip.
Along the way, they had some help from former NHL stars like Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg in Sweden, Pavel Bure in Moscow and Caps goaltending coach Arturs Irbe in Latvia. But nothing compared to the day they spent in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
A Canadian missionary named Brad Collins went to Bosnia in 2002 to try to help people in a war-ravaged country. As it turned out, he used hockey to help keep kids off the drug- and gang-infested streets. They only have ice in one rink for one month out of the year in Bosnia [NOTE: check out this site], but the kids learned hockey through Don Cherry videotapes and playing ball hockey with Collins.
A few of those kids who have spent time with Collins were at the HHOF for the event last night. If you watched the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the Caps-Leafs game (not sure that is even possible in the DC area), these kids were at the game and one, Mirzet Hodzic, was in the studio after the game with Ron MacLean and Cherry.
Hodzic moved to Sarajevo after he lost multiple family members in his hometown because of the war, and he met Collins in 2003. Now he is attending a university and is majoring in sports management. When MacLean and Cherry asked him about attending the Leafs-Caps game, he said he was excited to see some guy named Alex Ovechkin play.
People involved with hockey do lots of charitable work, and cynics will say some of it is just for public image or whatever other self-serving interests. Some of it though, is truly genuine work and makes an impact on people that goes beyond an ice rink. “Goals and Dreams” which was co-founded by former Washington Capitals star Mike Gartner, by the way, is one of those types of projects.