Tuesday 5 February 2013

Skating with the Habs: new community rink opens in N.D.G.

Here I am  with Brendan Gallagher
In my role as communications and marketing specialist for the English Montreal School Board I had a pretty exciting experience. As part of its BLEU BLANC BOUGE program launched back in September 2008, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation unveiled its fifth outdoor multipurpose and refrigerated community rink at Confederation Park in the N.D.G. on February 5. To mark the official opening, 50 children from the area took to the ice and skated alongside a few players from the Canadiens. 

This included students and staff from  Royal Vale School.  I was with them in the dressing room when a Canadiens officials asked us all to sit down and prepare for a surprise. Seconds later in walked in players Brendan Gallagher, Travis Moen and Francis Bouillon. In the room across the hall, Lars Eller, Josh Gorges and Colby Armstrong surfaced. Also suited up in his former number 36 jersey was Sergio Momesso, a native of N.D.G. who grew up playing baseball and swimming in this very same Confederation Park.
Josh Gorges shares a moment with me.

The players were wonderful and down to earth, signing lots of autographs. Gallagher told me he just signed on with Twitter in January and already has 21,000 followers. Asked whether he was on Twitter,  Bouillon said he has no intention of doing so.
Francis Bouillon told me he is glad to be back with the Habs.

Built in accordance with NHL standards and dimensions (200 feet by 85 feet), the artificial ice rink features a quality of ice that matches the highest professional rinks standards. The skating season is scheduled to take place from the end of November until mid-March, while various types of ball games, such as soccer, and in-line hockey as well as a variety of different sporting activities will take over for the spring, summer and fall months.

“There is no doubt that sports play a key role in the healthy development of our children and we are convinced that the construction of this fifth community rink in the Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough will provide children from the area with an state-of-the-art facility for them to use and enjoy while being physically active,” said Geoff Molson, President and CEO of the Montreal Canadiens, who was also on hand with General Manager Marc Bergevin,  COO Kevin Gilmore and Alumni president Rejean Houle. The golden voice of public address announcer Michel Lacroix graced the ice for the opening ceremonies.

Habs mascot Youppi was jointed by his Montreal Police Department counterpart Flik. Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, whose political career began two decades ago when je complained to City Hall about the state of some outdoor rinks in the area, was elated with the turn of events.

“I am pleased to know that a new rink will make it possible for the youth of the borough, particularly those of the District of Loyola, to enjoy ice sports," said Applebaum. "This additional tool will help promote a healthy and active lifestyle as it will further enhance the opportunities provided by the Notre-Dame-de-Grace Sports Centre and the Notre-Dame-de-Grace Cultural Centre,  all the while contributing to improve the quality of life of our residents. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who were involved in this project coming to fruition and more specifically the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation."

 Added Borough Mayor Lionel Perez: “By improving our equipment and recreational infrastructure, we are meeting the needs of the citizens, which continue to be the priority for this borough. Indeed, creating public gathering places like this one encourages intergenerational exchanges, all in a spirit of recreation and fun."
The initiative is part of BLEU BLANC BOUGE, the Foundation’s flagship project whose objective it was to build five outdoor multipurpose and refrigerated community rinks to accommodate various sporting activities in less privileged neighbourhoods in the Montreal area. Eager to provide high quality infrastructures, the Foundation reached a five-year partnership with the FTQ (Fédération des travailleurs du Québec), Fonds de solidarité FTQ, City of Montreal blue collars, FTQ construction workers and local entrepreneurs who all contributed to the project by providing financial resources, materials and manpower. The Foundation also worked closely with W. Graeme Roustan, Chairman of Bauer and Arena Design Services, a leader in the area of arena products and services, in the implementation of this type of playing surface.

Each of those community rinks is known as an animated gathering area for sports and physical activity that provides youth from these backgrounds to discover the advantages of a healthy and physically active lifestyle. To ensure the success of this program, the Foundation formed a dynamic partnership with Québec en Forme and shared the ultimate goal of improving the health of children living in underprivileged areas. As an organization promoting the well-being of children, Québec en Forme works closely with the Foundation in selecting the district and the community partners towards the development of an efficient activation of the facilities and to assess the impact of the program.

With phase one of the project successfully completed with the construction of five rinks in underprivileged boroughs in the greater Montreal area, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation will be looking at extending its mandate further to bring its healthy lifestyle program to areas outside of Montreal in the coming years.

Over and above the infrastructure, the borough benefited from the generosity of Bauer who donated 100 pairs of skates, helmets and sticks to create a bank of supplies to fill the needs of various local organizations working with children.

Here is a link to a video of me with the Habs produced and directed by my friend and colleague Daniel Smajovits.

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