As we kick off 2024, Kruger Products is celebrating the return of its Kruger Big Assist program for its fourth year to help make the game of hockey more accessible and inclusive for families across Canada. A recent survey revealed that 78 per cent of Canadians do not perceive hockey as an affordable sport for families, and 89 per cent said the cost of playing hockey, more so than other sports, strongly impacts a parent’s ability to register their kid(s). The same survey also revealed that 80 per cent of Canadians said they felt more diversity in hockey would improve the sport and encourage others to join. Since its launch in 2020, the Kruger Big Assist program has committed $800,000 to over 40 hockey associations across Canada, helping thousands of kids get on the ice and participate in the game. This year, Kruger Products is committing another $200,000: five regional minor hockey associations will each receive $25,000 to help remove barriers that prevent kids from having the opportunity to play Canada’s game. Out of these five regional winners, one association will also receive an additional $75,000 grand prize, as determined by the Canadian public for the first time this spring. To mark this occasion, Kruger Products is hosting a one-day-only hockey event at Scotiabank Arena, where kids will have a chance to participate in drills on the ice. Meantime, we chatted with former hockey pro Angela James to learn more. —Vita Daily
Hi Angela! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your athletic career to start.
I was born in Toronto, Ontario and was raised by a single Mother who raised 5 children in Flemington Park, Provincial Housing. I have three children, 2 boys and one girl, who all play hockey and was fortunate to have coached all of them from U6 to U18. I played and learned hockey on the outdoor arena in my neighborhood. In my yearly years I played house league hockey, rep hockey and simultaneously played for my college team. During that time, I also played provincial ball hockey, roller hockey and ice hockey for my province and Canada. I was fortunate to work in Sport for over 35 years, and I currently teach Sport Administration at Georgian College.
Today we’re talking about making hockey more accessible and inclusive for Canadian families; to begin, what is it specifically in/about hockey that would make it a) inaccessible and b) uninclusive to certain people?
Hockey can be an expensive sport for kids to play due to registration costs, equipment costs, tournament costs, and more. A survey from Kruger Products showed that 78 per cent of Canadians do not perceive hockey as an affordable sport for most families, and 89 per cent said the cost of playing hockey, more than other sports, impacts a parent’s ability to register their kid. There’s also a lack of diversity, inclusion and equity in hockey, and that can be a barrier for families across Canada who are considering signing their kids up. But hockey is also a great way for kids, families and communities to come together.
In your career, have you witness/experienced changes in terms of diversity when it comes the game?
I have witnessed change for the positive when it comes to inclusion and diversity and equity in hockey. The programs that are being offered by Kruger Products and others to the associations are so well received by the families. Unfortunately, the delivery of the hockey programs is often difficult to take part in due to equipment, accessibility, time of event and transportation. It would be nice if the programs that are offered are sustainable for numerous years vs. one-time events. The same kids having access to programs year after year will allow parents to have comfort in knowing that their kids are part of a long-term commitment.
What sorts of measures could be put into place to make hockey more accessible and inclusive to more people?
Programs like the Kruger Big Assist are so important to make hockey more accessible and inclusive for families across Canada. Kruger Big Assist provides financial assistance to minor hockey associations to help them remove barriers, like enrollment costs, that make hockey unattainable for kids in their communities. This not only opens the door for more kids to lace up skates and get out onto the ice, but also gives the chance to those who may be facing financial barriers to participate in the game. Past Kruger Big Assist recipients include a variety of diverse minor hockey associations ranging from girls and boys to para ice hockey associations, including sledge and blind hockey. Shining a light on the work these associations are doing to make the sport more accessible and inclusive is so important.
Why/in what ways is playing hockey beneficial to kids?
According to the survey mentioned above, 83 per cent of Canadians agree that playing hockey provides kids with valuable life skills. Not only is hockey a great way for kids to stay active, but it’s also a great way for them to learn about the importance of teamwork, communication, and develop problem-solving skills and self-confidence.