Monday, 4 March 2013

Not Just Developing Hockey Players

The final buzzer sounds and fans cheer as the Pats salute the assembled after a victory.  The players head off the ice and to their dressing room to shed their gear and head home for some much deserved rest.  After a weekend that saw the Pats win 5-1 and 6-2 over divisional rivals Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, the players have four days before suiting up for a Friday game against Medicine Hat.  After a break for Christmas, this week won’t be one to relax.  On-ice practices, off-ice workouts and mental preparation are the routine leading up to a three game in three night stretch for the Pats.

This week, like any other, won’t be centred only on hockey.  The players will be out and about within Regina, helping various community organizations because while developing hockey players is large part of what the organization does… more important is the development of young adults who will contribute to their community for years to come and long after they hang up their skates. 
The Pats are heavily involved in the community of Regina, spending nearly 3,000 man-hours volunteering to make the Queen City a better place in the last year.  Visiting children in the hospital, spending time working at the food bank and soup kitchens are all part of the schedule on any given week.  The players head out in small groups to their destination and spend the morning doing their bit to make a difference. 

Pats Captain Colton Jobke says it’s all part of an important relationship between the Pats and the community.  “Last year we were in schools, the food bank and this year as well.  We’re getting out as much as we can, whether it’s going to schools and reading to kids, playing floor hockey with them, making hampers at the food bank… Whenever we have a chance, breaks in our schedule we try and get out there and do as much as we can.  We really appreciate the community supporting us so we want to give back.”“(Getting out in the community) allows you to meet the people out there who come support you,” the Minnesota Wild prospect continues.  “It forces you, whether you’re 16, 17 or 20 years old, to grow up and really appreciate the people who come watch.”

“When we can use or leverage our notoriety with a charity or a business to help generate some money, whether it’s for a charitable group, minor hockey or anything we can do, we’re going to do it,” says Pats President Brent Parker.  “Everyone (in the front office), it’s always looking at different ideas, different thoughts, ‘how can we do this? What about this event?  Can we get involved there?’"

Parker feels community contributions are a key part of the Western Hockey League, “I think it’s a part of what our league is all about, it’s a part of the growing process for the kids, the development and the maturing and the life skills that they take out of these things from the punctuality, to the team work to the giving back.  All of these things are a part of why they play junior hockey.”

Sports teams are an integral part of the fabric their home towns and cities, from amateur all the way to the professional ranks.  They rely on the support of their fans and community to remain viable and it’s a key part of the relationship for the teams to give back.  For the Regina Pats, an organization dedicated to the development of young men, it’s a philosophy of community involvement that’s every bit as important as what happens on the ice.

Pats Head Coach Pat Conacher sees an opportunity for the players who have had a lot of support in reaching their goals to give back.  “When kids get to this level, they’ve been exposed to some great hockey programs.  I’m going to say that everything that can be done for them is done for them as far as coaching, resources and everything else,” says Conacher.   “I think it’s really nice for them to give back by going out into the community and see how young people their own age are trying to work, get jobs through school or any type of after school work those type of things to support themselves to try and chase their career goals.  Instead of having a whole network like we have in hockey where they’re basically being supported by everyone else, all they have to do is show up and play.  To get (the players) out in the community, it’s very important because I think to be great at anything you have to be a whole person and see everything and this is just part of it.”

The team also finds ways to make a contribution on a larger scale.  As both a pre-season team building exercise and community initiative, players and coaching staff join Habitat for Humanity for a day to work on a house for a deserving Regina family.  This season, the players focused on building a fence for one of Habitat’s latest project.  The day started with almost no sign of the project that would occupy the Pats through the day, but finished with the property almost entirely fenced.  One group of players also broke off to help dig out the space for a future path to the front door of the house.

With players spending so much time at the rink during the season, Jobke says it’s an opportunity to get a break from the grind, “whenever we come in the morning, the non-school guys, we usually try to do community service if we’re not too busy.  It’s a good break from the rink and it’s almost team bonding as well.  You get a bunch of guys at the food bank, having fun while helping the community as well, it’s a good time.”Community involvement is a cornerstone of the Pats organization and the commitment to making an impact away from the rink runs from the on-ice product, all the way to the front office.  All season, the Pats’ front office staff works to bring forward initiatives to get the Pats and their fans involved in bettering our community.  Annual events like painting the ice pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Night and the Teddy Bear toss are just a couple of ways the Pats contribute to the community at large. 

The last few months have been tough for the Regina Pats family as multiple alumni were diagnosed with severe illnesses.  The organization stepped to the plate and began initiatives to support these former Pats.  #MovemberforBD shirts and bracelets were sold at the rink while the team auctioned off special Movember ties and sticks and partnered with the Regina Professional Firefighters Association to build upon their already existing Movember campaign.  The team also supported the Regina Kidney Foundation through donations on Clark Gillies bobblehead night and the Multiple-Sclerosis Society with a jersey auction. 

“As an organization, we take great pride in working with our corporate partners on community projects,” says Pats V.P of Operations and Corporate Development, Cliff Mapes.  “For example, we’re into our thirteenth season working with Western Pizza and their “Have a Heart Night” to raise funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  Our fourth annual Knight Archer Bobblehead night was a huge success, raising over $4,000 for one of our alumni, Kyle Deck, and the Regina Kidney Foundation.  This year, our staff had the opportunity to lend their talents to help our partners here at the park run the video production for the Canadian Western Agribition Rodeo.  Any time we have the opportunity to work with a corporate partner; it’s a chance for us to contribute to building a network of support for causes around Regina and the surrounding area.”

Community involvement runs through the entire season.  Through the month of February, the Pats partner with Scotiabank to sell Zamboni Coin Banks with proceeds going to the Hospitals of Regina Foundation and Scotiabank matching what the Pats are able to raise.  In March, the Pats will help put Regina’s diversity on display with a multi-cultural night when twenty cultural groups will share their heritage with fans.  The Blue and White also host their annual First Nations Night featuring pre-game ceremonies and dancing.

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