The Colorado Avalanche were set to honor a group of Colorado hockey heroes at a game in Denver at the Pepsi Center this past March. But like many planned events in 2020, the celebration was canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic led to things being shut down.
With the return of sports, the Avalanche and the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) have begun the work to give back to the hockey community and help support the effort to keep hockey going into the new year.
The plan had been to celebrate all of the state’s hockey community at Colorado Hockey Night in March. Players, teams, coaches and others in the community were set to be honored with awards given out for things such as volunteer of the year and coach of the year.
Part of that also included the Toyota Hard Hat Heroes program. That initiative was meant to get funds out to the heroes in the hockey community. That money came as Toyota donated $100 for every Avs goal scored. The total reached was $26,000.
“Coming out of the lockdowns, we wanted to use the funding to support the rinks financially, and by promoting them and the work the rinks put in to make things as safe as possible ... We wanted to make the families who chose to go back to the rink to feel safe.”
— Jason Schofield,
Avs' Director of Amateur
on the importance of Rink Aid
Before that event could be held, however, the balance of the 2019-20 NHL season and most hockey in the U.S. was put on hold due to the pandemic. That meant there was no longer a night to honor statewide hockey heroes.
As hockey was put on pause, months went by while rinks remained empty. During that time Jason Schofield, the Director of Amateur Hockey Development for the Avalanche, and Randy Kanai, President of CAHA, began discussing what to do with the money that couldn't be used for a Colorado hockey night.
“We wanted to find a way to do some good,” Schofield said. “Coming out of the lockdowns, we wanted to use the funding to support the rinks financially, and by promoting them and the work the rinks put in to make things as safe as possible.”
That effort led to the launch of Rink Aid. This joint effort between CAHA, the Avalanche and Toyota, was announced on Nov. 1. The program is designed to assist both rinks and local hockey clubs by using the money from the Toyota Hard Hat Heroes program along with funds raised from the Avalanche’s 50/50 raffle, which benefits Colorado youth hockey.
“We wanted to make the families who chose to go back to the rink to feel safe,” Schofield said. “We talked to Toyota and with our partnership said we wanted to help everybody instead of one family or one team.”
Rink Aid has four components to it. First, Rink Aid is set to provide a personalized water bottle to each player in a Colorado youth hockey club across the state.
In an attempt to make things a little more sanitary at the rink, the idea is to limit water bottle sharing by giving each player their own water bottle. There is a blank jersey on the bottle on which the player can write his or her name and number so the bottle won't get mixed up with those belonging to other players. Along with that, the squeezable cap is the main color of their hockey program.
“One of the biggest things I noticed as a youth coach myself was water bottles,” Schofield said. “A coach grabs them, fills them up and 15 kids share five or six water bottles. That seemed like an obvious need.”
Each player will receive his or her own water bottle that is customizable by writing their name or number on it along with a cap color based on their hockey association colors.
Staying in the realm of safety, Rink Aid will also provide each player with a face mask. These masks feature the logos of the Avalanche, Toyota's Hard Hat Heroes, CAHA and the Colorado Hockey Hub.
“Face masks have become a must now,” Schofield said. “We thought this would be a great way to support the families in the rinks.”
Rink Aid will also provide each player with a face mask.
While there are a number of consistent health guidelines to follow for just about any rink in Colorado, such as a mask mandate or social distancing, each facility has come up with its own set of standards to further protect public health.
To help alleviate confusion for those heading to the rink, CAHA and the Avalanche have a web page that will show the rules and regulations of each facility in the state.
“The rink protocol page will help with the communication portion,” Schofield said. “The goal is that one page will show each rink and all of the protocols and what to expect.”
Finally, CAHA has partnered with MVPCast, a streaming service, to help each club stream games for family and friends who are not allowed to attend games. To help implement this, CAHA is assisting rinks in improving their Wi-Fi connectivity. Click here to read about MVPCast.
The plan is being rolled out over several weeks, with each facet of the plan coming out at different times. The goal is to be in full swing by Thanksgiving where players have the masks and water bottles.
This all goes back to, however, the hard work of the hockey community in Colorado has done to bring back hockey.
“I’m very impressed in how the hockey community has taken this all so seriously,” Schofield said. “This is a reflection of the passion the hockey community has and how much they want to have the kids enjoy the sport.”
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