Forever a Part of the Hockey Community

By Sarah Thompson. Sarah is an NCAA DI student-athlete at Syracuse University. The Ottawa native interned with iPlayHockey and CARHA Hockey in the summer of 2021 and is a close friend of the association. Check out her project, Sticks Together.

This past May I spent three weeks volunteering in a small villa in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had the opportunity to work with children of all ages and teach them the fundamentals of sports and health. I was fortunate enough to collect funds from many generous people and partner with Play It Again Sports to be able to donate hockey equipment and other sporting goods to the Amarilla school. My mission was to provide the necessary resources to give children in underprivileged communities the opportunity to learn and play the sport of hockey. While I may have taught them to play hockey, they taught me so much more.

From the moment I met this special group of children, I was in awe of their happiness and appreciation for all that they have. Their big smiles as they stepped through the school gate and the laughter, they shared amongst each other made me reflect on all the things I didn’t realize I took for granted. It became very clear to me that this school was their safe space. It was truly more of a community than it was a school. They would be greeted by their instructors and brought into the kitchen for breakfast from the women who graciously donate their time to cook them all a home-cooked meal. The children then leave some scraps outside the door for the two stray cats that visit daily and that they claim them as theirs. They do their routine of saying a prayer and singing a song that is unique to Amarilla. Each day their instructors help the children learn by imparting knowledge to them and arranging various activities. I was immediately welcomed into their small community and a witness to the beautiful culture they had built.

It reminded me quite a bit of what it feels like to be a part of a team. I think we often fail to recognize how fulfilling it is to be a part of a community, working together toward a common goal. If this experience taught me one thing, it is how lucky I am to be a part of the hockey community and more specifically, how lucky I am to play for the Syracuse Women’s Ice Hockey team. When times get tough ““ you’re in your 20-hour work weeks, have three exams to study for and meals to prepare for the weekend ““ you forget how fortunate you are to be in that particular situation and to be under that kind of pressure. In three weeks away from my teammates, a gym and the rink, I quickly realized how much it all matters to me. I longed for the feeling of crushing an intense off-season workout alongside my teammates, spending five hours in a bus chatting and collaborating on homework assignments, playing our win song after a weekend sweep, going for Thursday night frozen yogurt, and everything in between.

I have always loved hockey. Since I was six years old and played my first game in a Timbits jersey, I knew I wouldn’t be quitting anytime soon. Although, I think being a part of a team, going through all the ups and downs together and giving my blood, sweat and tears is what I love and appreciate most. Next season, when the going gets tough, because it always does, I’ll remember my experience at Amarilla. I’ll remember how happy the children were to see their friends and to be able to play a game of pick-up soccer. I’ll remember how incredibly fortunate I am to walk into the rink and suit up for practice, to put on the Syracuse jersey and to be a part of the hockey community.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Thompson

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