Lacing up skates and clicking on helmets for HEROS Hockey, the Victoria Royals helps École Quadra Elementary students get ready to hit the ice.
“It’s pretty awesome because we’re the only 22 kids, out of 400 kids in the school, who get to actually meet the Royals,” says Quadra grade five student Safa.
Safa’s grade 4/5 class has been coming to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Wednesdays as part of the HEROS Hockey program.
“It’s been fun, but hard,” says grade five student Jaedon, who says balancing is the hardest part.
“Oh, it’s so amazing!” Quadra grade 4/5 teacher Sean Gorman says. “Through HEROS Hockey, all the students were outfitted with brand new gear, so they didn’t have to worry about it, because we all know hockey is expensive.”
That’s why former WHL player Norm Flynn started HEROS — the Hockey Education Reaching Out Society — more than two decades ago, to help empower marginalized and at-risk youth on and off the ice.
“We started 36 boys and girls on the ice in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver,” Norm explains. “Fast forward 23 years later, we’ve worked with over 17,000 boys and girls, and we have 29 programs in 13 cities in Canada.”
The kids who score a spot on the HEROS roster aren’t just learning about stick handling and stopping, they’re also gaining important life skills.
“It’s not so much hockey-centric anymore, it’s all about education, it’s all about staying in school, it’s all about academics, and it’s all about doing something great for the environment and the community,” Norm says.
Wanting to make a difference in the community is exactly why the Victoria Royals are taking part.
“One of the main reasons we’re here in Victoria is to be connected to the community, to give back to the community,” says Victoria Royals Head Coach & GM Dan Price. “You can just see it, how much fun the kids have every day, how they connect with the players. we’re always so excited to welcome them to the arena.”
For Norm, it’s all about giving back — something HEROS does long after the game buzzer sounds.
“Once a hero, always a hero is our motto, so our kids stay with us forever,” Norm says. “It’s not a one-time shot. It is a lifetime cycle, so we have kids who graduated law school and became doctors, and we pay for their education. So what we’re doing is, we’re not making NHL players, we’re making good citizens.