By: Connor Mycroft

Over the weekend, the Charlottetown Islanders paired with the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association for Gear Exchange Day, which was held at the Bell Aliant Centre here on the UPEI campus. Gear Exchange Day is an annual event that allows parents to both register their children in minor hockey and donate previously used gear to children whose parents may not be able to afford it. The gear is provided free of charge, with the only caveat being that they ask parents to re-donate the gear next year so that new players can take advantage of the opportunity. 

Now in its fifth year, Gear Exchange Day has helped hundreds of children participate in a sport known for having extraordinarily high costs compared to other organized sports. Last year alone, the gear exchange provided equipment for 250 kids, a 50 percent increase over 2014.

According to the President of the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association, George Halliwell, those numbers are on track to grow even higher this year. Whereas last year around 70 kids got gear on Gear Exchange Day, this year they provided gear for upwards of 120 kids. These numbers are sure to grow as well, as the inventory is available throughout the coming weeks.

Halliwell believes that by partnering with the Charlottetown Islanders this year, they were able to increase their exposure, which will allow the program to continue to grow moving forward. Through the partnership, the CMHA was able to hand out free youth ticket vouchers for the Islander’s home opener on September 23rd where they will play against the Saint John’s Sea Dogs.

When asked about the impact this has on a children who want to get into hockey for the first time, Halliwell stated that “what it has done is allowed people to come and take some gear and go try hockey. If they like it, they can keep the gear, and if they don’t they can bring it back to our bin. Since hockey is one of those sports where the startup costs are significant, as a parent you realize that after a week some kids just don’t want to continue it, which creates a major financial risk. This program helps eliminate that risk.”

Despite being Canada’s national winter sport, the high costs incurred by parents can act as a huge barrier from having their children partake in ice hockey. Although registration only costs $350 for returning players, other costs, including gear, travel expenses, and ice times, can quickly price-out many low and even middle-income families. According to a survey conducted by Hockey Canada, the average Canadian family spent approximately $3,000 on minor hockey in the 2011-12 season alone. In 2015, two-thirds of Canadians had to borrow money to afford putting their kids in hockey, according to the annual Beyond the Blue Line survey conducted by the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation.

If you would like to donate gear, but were unable to over the weekend, the gear bin will be placed in the lobby of the Eastlink Center during the Islanders’ home opener on September 23rd.