There were smiles, cheers and a lot of hockey.
The Greater Toronto Hockey League officially kicked off the start of the 2012-13 season this weekend by bringing together up to 300 of 550 club teams for its second annual Puck Drop event at the York Canlan Ice Sports Arena.
Dave Lowes, coordinator of marketing and sponsorship for the GTHL, says the three-day extravaganza was about fun and togetherness.
“This event is really just about us kicking off the season,” said Lowes. “It’s not about getting scouted or even whether you win or lose the game that you’re playing. It’s all about just enjoying the experience.”
Anthony Salvatore, 13, plays for the GTHL’s Vaughn Rangers minor bantam ‘AA’ team and is one participant who loved the atmosphere that the league created to celebrate his first game of the season.
“I think it’s really great,” said Salvatore. “It brings a lot of teams together and it makes every play better because they know everyone is supporting them outside.”
His father, John, had similar praises for Puck Drop.
“It’s fantastic, it’s a way to get people out,” said the elder Salvatore. “It’s very, very good; everybody had a great time.”
Puck Drop was originally created last year as part of the GTHL’s 100th year anniversary celebrations. By booking a large facility with six pads and filling the building with their supporting members, it was a way for the league to be able to start the season with a bang.
Fashioned like a carnival, it brought in special guests such as Gary Roberts and Nick Kypreos to sign autographs as well as hosted prizes, giveaways and vendor booths for both kids and parents to explore.
“When you get here, the atmosphere is more fun and it just feels more fun,” said Ryan Raitano, 13, of the Mississauga Ice Warriors Minor Bantam ‘AA’. “There’s more going on, more excitement, there’s more to do.”
And of course, there is a lot of hockey. For only $6 at the door, you can enjoy the exploits of hockey players ages nine through 15 as they begin chasing their hockey dreams once again.
The proceeds made over the weekend will then be going towards the GTHL’s Legacy Fund. Also created in its 100th year, it was something that the non-profit organization put together as a way for them to be able to financially assist their members with hockey enrollment and equipment costs.
At its core, the weekend is about the kids having fun and getting to enjoy another year playing Canada’s favourite sport.
This is something that one particularly famous Canadian and supporter of the GTHL was able to get behind as he quietly watched the ‘AAA’ Toronto Marlboros take on the ‘AAA’ Mississauga Senators Friday night at Canlan.
“Anything we do to help the kids is always great,” said Don Cherry. “That’s a great event and I’m glad that they started and all the kids I know are very excited about it.”
Lowes smiled as he thought about what made the event worth the effort to bring it to life every year.
“Once all the work is done and you can actually stand back and look to see the events that are taking shape, it’s satisfying to see everyone enjoying themselves,” said Lowes.
“It’s satisfying for me personally and the rest of the staff that we’re able to provide this opportunity for the people who are the backbone of our league, which is the parents, the players, the fans.
“It’s very satisfying to see those people having a good time and being very proud to be part of this GTHL family.”
And Cherry only had praise for their efforts.
“It’s really good that people put this on and think of the kids,” he said. “That’s the main thing.
“I hope they keep it up and I hope they keep it going.”