Hockey 4 Everyone gets kids playing hockey

Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News The Hockey 4 Everyone program in Tillsonburg, now going into its seventh year, has been a group effort all the way around, from organizers to instructors to sponsors. The program delivers hockey, with on-ice instruction and scrimmaging, to children who do not play organized hockey. From left are (front) Club Oxford Hockey League's Joe Thorburn, who assists on-ice; Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club's Dave Martin; Club Oxford president Kim Alexander; (back row) George Manias, owner of All Seasons Sports Exchange; and Dan Dube, volunteer on-ice instructor. TN

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Equipment, registration fees, travel… it all adds up for hockey families.

In some cases it means not having an opportunity to play. And that’s where Hockey 4 Everyone comes in. A cooperative effort between the Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club and Club Oxford Hockey League, Hockey 4 Everyone provides free ice time for children in Grades 2-8 not already playing organized hockey, weekly from 7-8 a.m. for three months beginning in January. Local teachers and hockey-minded volunteers give their time to make it happen.

Those who want to continue playing hockey beyond the end of March also receive funding to play Spring 3-on-3 hockey, which further develops skating and playmaking skills.

The local Club Oxford league, the Tillsonburg Kinsmen and local businesses have joined forces to provide the funding to make Hockey 4 Everyone possible.

Hockey 4 Everyone believes no one should miss out on an opportunity to enjoy the game of hockey due to financial concerns. There are NO FEES for equipment, ice time, or instruction.

About 10 years ago, Rolph Street Public School teacher Dan Dube started an early morning hockey program for students up to Grade 6. It included rep players, house league and some who had never played hockey before.

Around the same time the Club Oxford Hockey League in Tillsonburg, led by league president Kim Alexander, had recently completed its $30,000 commitment to arena renovations at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.

“At Club Oxford we had done a fundraiser for six years for the arena renovation project and I wanted to keep something going for the community, so I thought I would provide hockey equipment, through George (Manias), for kids who could not afford to buy it,” said Alexander. “And it was not really taking off.”

Dube and Alexander met through a mutual friend in hockey, George Manias at All Seasons Sports Exchange at 40 Broadway.

“We met right here,” said Dube, nodding to Manias. “I might have come in for skate sharpening or I was getting my own stuff. Or telling you some of the kids were going to come, I don’t know.”

“Actually we met out there as you were about to drive away,” Manias laughed. “I was running after you – that was hilarious. I didn’t think of it until you had left, that’s when I had the brain wave.

“You had come through the door while Kim was here, while we were talking about it, and just after you left we went back to talking about it. Meanwhile I had known that you had done the Rolph Street stuff…”

Manias’ brain wave was to put the two together.

“When I talked to Dan,” said Alexander, “I thought ‘hey, he’s already got kind of a program going so let’s join forces here.’ Dan will provide the on-ice expertise and we’ll help get them equipped.”

“When I met Kim, it was a great opportunity to do a community thing, not just a Rolph Street thing,” said Dube. “So that’s how it happened.”

The Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club has supported the Hockey 4 Everyone program since Day 1.

“It definitely falls under ‘Serving the community’s greatest needs,” said Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club’s Dave Martin, “which is the Kinsmen motto. It’s a way to get kids on the ice and playing Canada’s game right here in Tillsonburg.”

In its first year, Hockey 4 Everyone ran one hour per week for Grade 3-6 students. It was a success and quickly expanded to two mornings per week separated into junior and senior groups.

Manias remembers equipping 40-50 kids in the early years.

“We had a lot of kids. It was just too many to get to on the ice at the same time, so we decided to go with two groups,” said Alexander.

“It was close to 50,” nodded Dube, who still coordinates the on-ice sessions and scrimmaging with assistance from Club Oxford ace Joe Thorburn. “The amazing thing was how many kids have gone from the program to minor hockey. That’s been huge.”

Ice time has been reserved Tuesday and Thursday mornings, said Alexander, at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena. All participants are invited to the first Tuesday and Thursday sessions, starting Jan. 10, and a decision will be made at that time on how they will divide into two groups based on numbers.

For more information on the program email Kim Alexander at or text Dan Dube at 519-871-2612.

Equipment fitting will take place Friday, Dec. 28 from 7-9 p.m. in the Marwood Lounge at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, and Saturday, Dec. 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., also in the Marwood Lounge.

For children to join this season’s Hockey 4 Everyone, parents need to sign a permission form at the Tillsonburg Community Centre front desk and provide contact information. Parents need to make necessary transportation arrangements to get their children to the arena and to school afterwards.