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CAN & Sport Surrey give hockey participants a day to remember

April 29, 2022

At Canucks Autism Network (CAN), we believe that every individual on the spectrum has the right to play sports. Like all our efforts, we rely on dedicated community support to make that belief a reality. That’s why it was particularly meaningful to see our friends at Sport Surrey and the City of Surrey join us in hosting the first-ever CAN Hockey Jamboree.

Held this past April 2 at the Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex, the event was an opportunity for CAN Hockey participants and their families to close out the season in style.

Our hockey program features over 60 young athletes on the autism spectrum on four teams across the Lower Mainland — the Vancouver Orcas (youth & adult), Coquitlam Sharks (youth) and Surrey Stingrays (youth). Each team practices on a weekly basis, honing their skills, while forging meaningful social connections.

With the season culminating on April 2, players and their families were given the star treatment. As partners of the City of Surrey and longtime CAN supporters, the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society were on hand to serve up hot dogs and treats. And with the event also taking place on World Autism Day, Mayor Doug McCallum joined the players on the ice to drop the ceremonial puck.

After a series of scrimmages for our players to showcase their talents, parents and siblings were also invited onto the ice for a family skate.

“On behalf of City of Surrey – Parks, Recreation and Culture staff, it was our pleasure to extend a warm welcome to all the athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers participating in the Canucks Autism Network – Hockey Jamboree 2022” said Manvir Aujla, Community Services Assistant for Universal Design and Accessibility Services. “The City of Surrey is committed to creating a world where all on the autism spectrum can reach their full potential and encourages everyone to learn more about autism and how we can support the diverse needs. Also, a huge thank you to all the organizers and volunteers who have worked hard to make this a successful event!”

While the celebration was generously funded by Sport Surrey, the City of Surrey’s involvement with CAN extends far beyond this one-day event.

In addition to collaborating with the city to increase accessibility in community spaces, they have opened the doors of their pools, rinks and gyms to host CAN programs for years.

In particular, the CAN Hockey program in Surrey operates out of the same rink as the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s Surrey Knights. So, when team owner John Craighead heard about our team, he went above and beyond to make sure they felt welcome.

The Knights opened their private dressing room to our young athletes. They made personalized name bars to be placed above each player’s stall. And best of all, Knights players were on hand for each weekly practice to mentor and guide our participants.

So of course, on the day of the CAN Hockey Jamboree, Knights players joined each of our four teams on the ice for their scrimmage.

“Individuals on the spectrum often face barriers to participation in sports & rec,” said Romdoul Long, CAN Program Coordinator & event organizer.

“So to see three different groups from the City of Surrey community come together to support our participants – what an incredible way to celebrate acceptance on World Autism Day.”

On behalf of all 60+ families in attendance at the CAN Hockey Jamboree, thank you to Sport Surrey, the City of Surrey, Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society and the Surrey Knights.

Further reading

Canucks showcase autism acceptance in annual celebration

Coquitlam Express welcome hundreds in the stands & on the ice

Nate Keller: “I want to help other kids like me”