Laughter and playfully competitive camaraderie filled the Vancouver Island community of Ty-Histanis last month as it hosted ball hockey games with 8 current and retired NHL players.
The group was led by Nashville Predators star Tyson Barrie who joined Power to Give and the West Coast Multiplex Society to raise awareness and support for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation community’s proposed ice rink, swimming pool and gathering space facility.
Barrie told Black Press Media during a break in the Aug. 17 action that he was “having a blast.”
“The community has been great, lots of kids are showing up and having a good time,” he said. “The sun’s out and anytime you get a chance to play road hockey it makes me a little nostalgic. It’s always fun to get a little road hockey game going.”
Barrie said he had been looking for ways to give back and was working with Power to Give when he discovered the work the West Coast Multiplex Society was doing to bring a swimming pool and ice rink facility to the local area.
“I grew up in Victoria and I always loved coming up to Tofino and enjoying the beauty and what it has to offer. I just kind of can’t believe they don’t have a multiplex or a facility and I know how gloomy it can get here in the winter,” he said. “We thought it would be a cool idea to bring up some NHL guys and former NHL guys and just bring awareness towards it…Hockey is Canada’s sport and it’s just such a beautiful community and such a great part of the world it feels like it deserves that. It seems like it’s going to be a process, but it’s one that we’re happy to try to help aide and be a part of and I think it will be a pretty cool thing to see up here.”
He said the group had recently been in Hazelton for two days to celebrate a now completed Multiplex they helped raise funds for.
“They have a beautiful multiplex up there that they worked hard on getting and put a lot of time and effort and money into it and you can see how close it’s brought the community. It gives the kids up there a place to go and skate and gather and create friends and bonds for life,” he said.
He added multiplex facilities can connect communities while also forming lifelong bonds.
“You learn how to put others ahead of yourself, you learn how to create bonds and do things for one another and you create friendships that last a lifetime,” he said. “I’m still friends with the kids I grew up playing hockey with and playing sports with. That sense of camaraderie really brings people together and it can take you to some really cool places.”
West Coast Multiplex Society chair Samantha Hackett told the Westerly she was thrilled the players were so passionate about raising awareness for the local project.
“They’re wanting to support small communities and remote communities with recreation and health and wellness, in a proactive way,” she said.
“It just really shows that people care. We’re in a remote community and I think the essence of all of this is that remote communities don’t have the amenities and all of the things that larger city hubs have. They’re bringing that awareness and their care and showing they know that we’re having these struggles and that they want to help us do better for our communities and our future.”
The Multiplex Society hopes to break ground on the new facility at the end of 2024 and is currently working on a federal grant application led by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation that’s expected to be submitted later this year.
Tla-o-qui-aht Education Manager Iris Frank told the Westerly that providing recreation opportunities through the ice rink and swimming pool as well as a gathering space for events make the multiplex project a key focus for the First Nation.
She added she was ecstatic to see such a large turnout for the Ty-Histanis hockey game.
“It’s fun and it’s something that’s healthy for them to do. To bring everybody out on such a beautiful day has been absolutely, overwhelmingly amazing,” she said.