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OMHA expands campaign to draw new players to sport

Association's #HockeyIsFun campaign has been translated into Punjabi and Mandarin
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association's #HockeyIsFun campaign has been translated into Punjabi and Mandarin.

The Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), the largest minor hockey association in the world with some 100,000 participants, launched a new registration drive that goes back to the roots of why people play hockey in the first place with the hashtag #HockeyIsFun.

“We have talked a lot about the benefits of sport and especially team sport as we emerged from the pandemic,” says Ian Taylor, executive director of the OMHA.

“We wanted to remind players and parents that the most compelling reason to play hockey is because it’s fun,” Taylor adds. “In the end, parents want their kids to have a great time, learn new skills and do so in a safe and inclusive environment. This aligns with our mission to be the sport of choice for families in Ontario.”

The campaign, which includes animated videos, reminds parents of the smiles they see on their children’s faces the first time they take the ice and fall in love with the game taking their first shifts. The friends they make for life. The intangible benefits from learning how to win and lose and be part of a team.

For the first time in the OMHA’s history, the #HockeyIsFun campaign has been translated into Punjabi and Mandarin.

“The face of Ontario has changed with so many newcomers in recent years and our game needs to recognize that. We have gone directly to new Canadians to show them there is a place for them in the game and it’s a great way for them to make new connections in their communities,” Taylor says.

House league hockey, also known as recreational, traditionally makes up 75 per cent of all participants. Registration under the Hockey is Fun banner is aimed primarily at this level to get new players comfortable as they are introduced to the game.

The campaign is also supported by a parent kit with tips on how parents can equip their children, and how they can find the appropriate hockey association across Ontario.

“It’s important that the OMHA speaks directly to new Canadian communities in this way, and they see there is a place for them in the game,” says Vinay Intwala, a first-generation Canadian whose family immigrated from India in the 1970s.

Intwala has dubbed his family “The Accidental Hockey Family” on Instagram as they now live, eat and breathe the game as seen in this video. Intwala has been named an ambassador by the OMHA for its new registration campaign.

“We are a family that is simply consumed by hockey now. But looking back as a member of an immigrant family, I never expected to be immersed in the game given our limited exposure early on.”

He adds, “Not all of us could afford to play hockey as immigrant families. We didn’t have a lot of money. But everyone at the time had a hockey stick, even if it was borrowed.”

His message to new Canadian families — there are many programs now to help with the costs including equipment.

“Give them a stick and a ball and see where it evolves from there.”

The OMHA offers tools to players and its local minor hockey associations that help offset some of the costs of the game. Programs like KidSport Ontario help bring more kids into the game by providing registration grants. The Player and Goalie Assist programs provide free sets of equipment to associations to offer to new hockey families or those in need to ensure that everyone can play.