Any parent hoping to get their child involved in hockey looks forward to the joys of teaching their young player to skate, attending their first game, and seeing the smile on their face when they make their first team. But not all children get the chance to pick up a stick and hit the ice because of one hurdle that is more prohibitive in hockey than in any other youth sport: cost.
Even for young children, hockey equipment, as well as ice time, is significantly more expensive than a basketball or a baseball glove. The full set of equipment – skates, sticks, gloves, helmets, pants, elbow and knee pads- can cost parents hundreds, in addition to the fact that growing young players will need new equipment regularly.
In homes where money is tight, that expense can keep talented youngsters out of the rink and prevent many from discovering a love for the game or their natural knack. New Steelheads forward Reid Halabi has been working to do something about it.
Halabi joined the Steelheads this past summer, and in the past has played in the ECHL in Fort Wayne, Allen, and Tulsa. In his travels, Halabi noticed how often he was hearing of young players turned away from hockey because of the price tag. He wanted to do something to help, and last month he officially took charge.
“I teamed up with a buddy I used to play with in Allen. We wanted to do something to give back to the community and kids who were less fortunate and couldn’t afford hockey gear,” said Halabi. “We set up a program in Allen to donate a bit there and we’re donating a bit in Edmonton to local YMCA’s and fire departments, getting kids set up with new gear.”
The effort is a GoFundMe page called “Donations for Young Athletes Gear” and it has already generated over $2,700 towards a $15,000 goal in about three weeks. According to Halabi, the success of the drive goes beyond the stats listed on the webpage.
“We’ve had a few silent donors, people who didn’t donate through the GoFundMe page, and others that have used that page. The response has been really good. A lot of guys I used to play with and a lot of friends back home are pitching in, too.”
Halabi is an Edmonton native who has played 41 professional games over two-plus ECHL seasons. He knows that he had opportunities growing up that not every kid has, and he turned those opportunities into a career.
“We all kind of got lucky and got to play this sport for a living. We wanted to give other kids the same chance that we dreamed of growing up,” said Halabi. “I was lucky that my dad helped me out as much as he could, and did a really good job. I was blessed to have him.”
For now, this very new venture is directed towards youth players in two cities, but it could be the kind of project that serves as the first step in helping to overcome one of the sport’s biggest issues.
“It’s something small for now, and we’re just trying to do what we can,” said Halabi. “We’re small fish but we’re trying to do big things for kids.”
Perhaps with the right support behind him, those efforts could one day apply to young players in Idaho as well. In whatever way he can, Halabi is doing his part to make the game available to as many kids as possible.
“Every little donation helps.”
To donate to Reid’s cause, visit his GoFundMe page at this link.