Whenever we are asked where our son plays hockey, my husband and I both respond that he plays for the most amazing hockey league around – George Bray. We have been fortunate enough to be a part of the George Bray Sports Association family for the past six years with our son Liam.
When Liam started out, he was hesitant to go on the ice. He loved the idea of playing hockey but actually going out on the ice, well that was whole different story. What he discovered once he got out there was the most caring coaches and on-ice helpers around. For the first time, Liam was playing with kids he could identify with. Some with intellectual exceptionalities, some with physical limitations and they all shared one common love…hockey!
Over time, we became more involved in the organization. I became the team parent rep – helping out the coaches with the ‘administrative duties’ to free them up to concentrate on the players. The next thing we knew, our teenage son Jared was volunteering as an on-ice coach. He was combining his love of hockey with his desire to give back to the community that was helping his little brother. The skills Jared has learned from helping out with this league cannot be taught in any classroom. Top on the list are compassion and patience. After his first year of helping on-ice, Jared encouraged a couple of his hockey teammates to come out and volunteer too. They are now in their second year of volunteering and hope to continue once they start their post-secondary education. Last year, a coaching vacancy opened up and lo and behold, my husband put his hand up to volunteer. Neil is now in his second year on the bench and loves every minute of it! Every week you can find Grandma and Grandpa standing at the boards watching the team, cheering for passes, shots on nets and great goalie saves. These games can be as exciting as any hockey game you will see on television. We frequently find ourselves cheering because a player who has never touched the puck before actually gets to shoot it or a goalie makes a great save!
GBSA is all about fairness and inclusion. We strive to make sure every player feels a part of the team – whether they are actively part of the plays or just learning how to skate – everyone matters to the team. The only pre-requisite to playing on a GBSA team in the Junior and Intermediate divisions is the player must have an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Players exceptionalities can range from ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome to intellectual and developmental delays. Everyone is welcome and everyone is given the opportunity to participate equally. Excellence is celebrated every game when players who would ever be accepted in a ‘mainstream’ league step out on the ice.
For a lot of these players, their weekly hockey game is the highlight of the week! They show up at the arena early, they play to the very best of their abilities and win or lose, they come off the ice with great big smiles on their faces! It is really the most beautiful sight!