The last time Vancouver hosted a hockey game downtown, the event didn’t exactly bring out the best in a lot of people, with millions of dollars in damages and more than a hundred people sent to the hospital after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins.
A local non-profit group is expecting the opposite on Saturday when Granville Street will once be overrun with hockey enthusiasts.
Three makeshift ball hockey courts will be set up in 800-block near Robson Street for the second annual Five Hole for Food cross-country tour, a food drive launched last year by Simon Fraser University students who play street hockey in major cities to bring in donations for local food banks.
Five Hole founder Richard Loat admitted the chance to rehab his home city’s somewhat battered and bruised image has been an added bonus to this year’s road trip, which will see him and teammates Victor Lo and Jonathan Buyco play in13 cities over 17 days.
“I think it is important that we are sort of quote-unquote rehabbing Vancouver’s image,” said Loat, a fourth year communications major better known by his Twitter handle @mozy19 and through his work as a blogger for Canucks.com.
“Leaving town, we said to each other we’re the first ambassadors of Vancouver since that black mark and having the opportunity to represent the city across the country has been tremendous. The first question everyone asks when they hear where we’re from is, ‘Oh, how were the riots?’
“Once we push that aside, people perk up to the fact we’re a bunch of Vancouver guys driving across the country helping not only our community but those across Canada.”
But while helping to repair the city’s rep in the eyes of the country is all well and good, it pales in comparison to the real goal of putting food on the plates of the less fortunate. While food banks need support year-round, that need is especially high during the summer months.
Loat, 22, said the group, which received assists from social media buzz, corporate sponsorship and a veritable small army of volunteers, has already raised nearly four times the amount of food from last year’s hastily organized tour that saw them play ball hockey in nine cities.
“Last year was really just kind of a pilot,” Loat said over the phone from Alberta. “This year we set a goal of 20,000 pounds of food and now, heading into Calgary with four stops to go, we’ve already raised 23,000 pounds.”
Five Hole for Food accepts online donations as well. Cash and non-perishable food items will be accepted in person at the event itself, where anyone who’s game can join in and play.
Loat expects the opening 1 p.m. Vancouver street hockey game to draw a variety of politicos, minor celebrities and media personalities.
As for Loat, he’s looking to putting his own stick down again nearly three weeks after he dipped it into the Atlantic Ocean, just as another young and local athletic philanthropist, Terry Fox, did years before him.
“We’re averaging something like four or five hours of sleep a night, if that,” said Loat. “It’s been physically gruelling and mentally gruelling. I’m pretty much living on adrenaline and I’m expecting to crash pretty much the moment I pick up the ball in the last second of the Vancouver game.”
(This story was first published July 8, 2011. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)