The year was 1996, a group of businessmen acquired some ice time in Toronto. With the ice time they had, they decided to form a small corporate event to raise some money for a charitable cause.
“That raised about $8,000…what they ended up doing was purchase the materials and supplies to create 300 survival kits, and they went downtown to the streets of Toronto and handed those survival kits out to those they believed to be homeless at the time,” said Ryan Baillie, Executive Director for Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH).
It was then that founding father and Hockey Hall of Famer, Mike Gartner, suggested turning the event into a Pro-Am series. Fast forward to 2004, one of the other founding fathers, Gary Scullion, was in Montreal and decided to host the second annual HHTH event.
“That event still takes place today and a few years later, expanded to Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, and now we’re in a dozen cities across the country, raised $14 million since inception and over $2.3 million annually,” said Baillie.
Today, players and teams pay and raise money to participate in an HHTH event. With that, players have an opportunity to play against the pros, play three hockey games throughout the day, one pro-player per team, outfitted in a pro-style uniform and socks, have their name and number on the back, breakfast, lunch, dinner, reception, and silent auction.
November 9, 2018, will be the first HHTH event held in Halifax, this time choosing Veteran homelessness as their cause and partnering with VETS Canada.
“It makes sense given it’s Halifax, there’s a lot of Canadian Forces members here, but also it’s going to be hosted during Remembrance Week,” said Baillie.
A few years back, Baillie said his team at HHTH had done a little research on the Veteran homelessness issue. Through their research and with the help of VETS Canada, they discovered it costs about $3,000 to help each homeless Veteran, to get them a roof over their head and the support they need to thrive.
“We believe at Hockey Helps the Homeless, that no man, woman, or child in this country should ever be homeless, and further to that, not have the supports they need to really thrive, be successful and have a fighting chance at success in this country and a fair shot,” said Baillie. “Jim and Debbie Lowther have the perfect saying, that no Veteran that served and risked their life to protect our homes, should ever be without one.”
VETS Canada hopes to be able to raise $100,000, if not more. Registration is currently open for the Halifax HHTH event, with upcoming events in other Canadian cities. For more information on how to register, donate, or dates and locations for upcoming events, you can visit their website here.