Beach hockey rivals set to go head-to-head for charity

Neil McNeil Catholic High School and Malvern Collegiate Institute hockey teams are playing in a charity game again this year. Above, a photo from last year's game at Ted Reeve arena. PHOTO: Phil Lameira

Hockey teams from Neil McNeil Catholic High School and Malvern Collegiate Institute are hitting the ice again for charity.

Neil McNeil’s senior boys team and Malvern’s varsity team will face off at Ted Reeve Arena in the Upper Beach on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the game or from either school for $3, and all proceeds are going to Community Centre 55.

“It’s all about the community,” said Peter Ranson, Neil McNeil’s head coach. “We’re two community-based schools, and we’re trying to give back to those around us.”

Last year, the first time the two schools went head-to-head for this charitable cause, at least 300 fans filled the stands at the Ted Reeve Arena, which donated the rink time, and organizers were able to raise $1,500 for Centre 55. Ranson wants to double that amount this year.

“Each year our plan is to grow and grow,” he said.

For the past several years, Malvern has organized an annual winter charity game. It began as an alumni event before including Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute and Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute at different points. Malvern head coach Doug Underwood explained what the reason was behind the recent switch to Neil McNeil as an opponent.

“We just thought that it’s a natural rivalry, and the two schools [are] in the Beaches,” said Underwood. “It’s kind of a competitive but friendly game that goes on.”

As for the decision to donate again to Centre 55, Underwood noted the local connection as well. “I live in the community, and I know that they do great work with their Share a Christmas program, and I just wanted to contribute somehow, so I thought that was a good way to contribute within your own community,” said Underwood.

There are also lessons to be learned for the young players. “We try and teach the players to give back a little bit and we hope they take some ownership in this and see that they can make a difference within their own community,” he added.

Don’t expect the players to go easy on each other just because it’s a breather from regular-season play, though.

“It’s very competitive, ‘cause all the kids know each other,” Neil McNeil’s Ranson said. “It’s one of those games we don’t want to lose, they don’t want to lose, but at the end of the game there’s always a big hug.”

That camaraderie is part of what stands out in Ranson’s mind about last year’s matchup which Malvern won by a score of 5 to 3.

“Well, I didn’t like losing the game, but at the end of the day probably the highlight for me was seeing the two captains holding a cheque for Centre 55 who were two friends from the same GTHL team,” said Ranson. “It was a real coming-together moment for me.”

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