Players growing the game, connecting with fans through G&D and Sonnet Insurance
They’re connecting virtually but the impact is palpable. Players are helping to grow the game through NHLPA Goals & Dreams alongside Sonnet Insurance (Sonnet).
For Patrice Bergeron, it was a welcome opportunity to create connections. For Matthew Tkachuk, it was something he had looked forward to for days.
For everyone involved, it was the perfect way to share the love for all things hockey.
A joint effort between NHLPA Goals & Dreams and Sonnet, the “Everyone Deserves A Team” initiative that brought together six current professional hockey players with many deserving kids from youth programs across Canada.
Who got more out of the virtual meet-and-greets? Consider the end result a tie.
“It's not really giving back when you learn more from them than they do from you. They're special kids,” offered Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames.
The forward took to Twitter soon after his meet-and-greet to show his appreciation for getting the chance to connect with young fans. With in-person interactions being on hold due to COVID-19, being part of the event was humbling for the forward, who was grateful he had the chance to help young players embrace the great game of hockey.
Proud to have been a part of the Everyone Deserves A Team video series from @NHLPA Goals & Dreams and @SonnetInsurance – check out this virtual surprise for these superhero kids! #NHLPAGnD https://t.co/n8MZgkKEEG— Matthew Tkachuk (@TKACHUKycheese_) February 16, 2021
“It was awesome,” said Tkachuk. “The initiative is so important, and it was really fun to be part of. It was just one of those experiences where you are on the Zoom call and the kids that you’re on with are so excited. I’ve said this a bunch before to the people that organized them, they think the kids get so much more out of it than we do, but honestly, I can guarantee you I get way more out of it than they do.”
“The most enjoyable part was hearing their stories on why they decided to start playing hockey,” said Bergeron, a Stanley Cup winner and four-time Selke Award recipient.
Sportsnet host, David Amber, presided over the “Everyone Deserves A Team” conversations with young hockey players from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Bergeron and Tkachuk were joined by fellow NHLPA members Zach Hyman, Darnell Nurse and PWHPA standout and Olympian, Sarah Nurse. The players helped announce brand-new equipment donations and Hall of Fame member Doug Gilmour also joined in by gifting ice time on behalf of Sonnet as an ambassador.
The NHLPA and Sonnet, whose partnership began in 2017, aligned with a pair of respected and deep-rooted Canadian youth hockey programs for “Everyone Deserves A Team”. The Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS)/SuperHeros, and Hockey 4 Youth programs remove social and economic barriers to hockey for children while empowering them on and off the ice.
“By bringing together the best of the hockey community, we’re honoured to play a part in ensuring that these young players have the chance to live their hockey dreams,” said Brian Long, VP of Marketing, Sonnet.
For 20-plus years, the player-driven NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund has supported youth hockey in 34 countries and donated more than $25 million in equipment.
“We are thrilled that Sonnet has joined us in supporting grassroots hockey initiatives through our NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund,” said Devin Smith, NHLPA Senior Director, Marketing and Community Relations. “Coming together during these unprecedented times to continue to give young people across Canada the chance to play hockey is something that we are extremely proud of.”
The program’s impact on hockey continues to grow globally, as does the number of players wanting to be part of NHLPA Goals & Dreams-led events, either through ambassadorship or other supporting roles.
“As players, we are proud of our NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund,” said Hyman. “Having Sonnet recognize that and join us in giving back to young hockey players is incredible. “Patrice, Darnell, Matthew, Sarah and I really enjoyed connecting with the kids from the HEROS and Hockey 4 Youth programs and we can’t wait until they can get back out on the ice together in their new equipment.”
Tkachuk, in his fifth NHL season, could tell how much the interactive chat meant to the young hockey players.
“Just seeing the smiles of the kids and how excited they were to get the new equipment and the ice time, it really puts a smile on your face. I loved the chance to answer their questions and to be able to talk to the kids and just have normal conversations, especially with what’s been going on with the pandemic.”
The 23-year-old recalled some of the NHL players he met before he joined the big-league ranks.
Thanks to his father, former longtime NHL star Keith Tkachuk, he had the chance to meet some of his idols face-to-face with his brother, Brady.
“It was different because my interactions were in person, but I remember going to the All-Star Game with my dad in Montreal, and I was old enough to realize what was going on. I was probably around 11 at that time. Seeing guys like Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin, and getting to meet them, shake hands with them and have a picture taken with them – it was a surreal experience. Now, I’m lucky enough to be playing against them. Back then, it was the highlight of my life, meeting those guys.”
Tkachuk can now add the “Everyone Deserves A Team” experience as another memorable hockey-related moment.
“At the end of the day, the call we had with the kids through the NHLPA and Sonnet made me happy and excited to be part of it. The kids were the ones who put a smile on my face. I was honoured to be part of that and to help a great initiative.”
Bergeron was equally grateful for the experience.
“Being able to connect through discussions about the game, to see boys and girls using hockey to facilitate their inclusion into their new home, was great. I really enjoyed my time.”
As did the families of the kids who took part.
— Kimberly (@KimBlah) February 21, 2021
Everyone deserves a team. Learn how the NHLPA and Sonnet are helping more young players embrace the great game of hockey at sonnet.ca/NHLPA.