Gorges begins minor hockey program to buy equipment for kids in need
As he gets set to surpass 500 NHL games played this coming season Kelowna's Josh Gorges is giving back to the city that helped to sculpt his professional hockey career.
Gorges will kick off a program on Tuesday in Kelowna that will provide families who can't afford the costs of minor hockey the chance to suit up in the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association.
Called Goals and Dreams, the program began 13 years ago and is administered by the NHL Players Association. It purchases registration and buys equipment for kids who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to play minor hockey. Gorges says now is the time to bring the program to Kelowna.
"I started thinking this year that I have to start doing more for the community and helping out as much as I can," said Gorges this week. "I thought this is such a good opportunity for me to get involved and help kids that maybe don't have the opportunity to play hockey and give them the same opportunity I had. The game has done so much for me I want to make sure every kid that wants to play has a chance to play."
Gorges says he hopes to help as many as 40 to 50 children per year, if the demand is there and if there is room for kids to register in minor hockey. The former Rockets captain and Memorial Cup champion will be at the minor hockey office this Tuesday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. signing autographs and kicking the program off as Kelowna Minor Hockey opens registration for another season.
KMHA already has an established program that helps families with registration costs, so in its first year, Gorges' program will go towards the purchase of equipment for kids who can't afford it, according to minor hockey.
"We know there are lots of families that need the help," said Kelowna Minor Hockey director of hockey operations Corrine Reid. "Every year there are lots of kids whose parents come in and they want their kid to play hockey but can't afford the equipment. This is huge for us. We're really excited. Now when people ask we will have a place to send them."
After playing minor hockey in Kelowna, Gorges advanced to the Kelowna Rockets where he would play four seasons, ending with the 2004 Memorial Cup. Then it was off to the American Hockey League for parts of two seasons before making the jump to the NHL full-time, first with the San Jose Sharks and for the past six seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. The 6-foot-1 blueliner was named an alternate captain for the Habs last season and also signed a six year contract with Montreal last season.
He says he owes a lot to the city of Kelowna.
"I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in Kelowna and play minor hockey and stay with the Rockets," he said. "Both of those organizations have helped me so much to be where I am today. I'm very fortunate to be able to do what I'm doing and if I can help out even one kid that gets to play hockey then I'm more than happy."
Gorges says playing minor hockey comes with many great side effects and he's hoping that he can help many kids along the way.
"I think first and foremost it gives them something that is really positive to do," said Gorges. "There are a lot of negatives in our world today but hockey gives you that opportunity to be part of a team sport. You lean how to interact with people, be a teammate be pushed and push other people and cooperate."
Kelowna Minor Hockey registration opens for another season on Tuesday at the minor hockey office in Memorial Arena. Gorges will be on hand starting at 7:30 a.m. to sign autographs. For more information on the Goals and Dreams program or minor hockey registration, drop by the office or call 250-861-5677.
There is more on the NHLPA's program at www.nhlpa.com and click on the Giving Back tab.