SBJ/May 27 - June 2, 2002/Opinion

Hockey's gift: Goals met, and Dreams come true

It seems as though not a day goes by without media reports reminding us that sports is really just a multibillion-dollar business. Over the last several months, we have been bombarded with stories relating to contraction of major league baseball franchises, a not-so-aboveboard public auction of the Boston Red Sox, and the Cablevision/YES chess game using New York Yankees fans as pawns.

Lost in all of this are the feel-good stories involving professional sports and professional athletes. One such story that receives little attention and praise is that of the Goals & Dreams fund run by the National Hockey League Players' Association.

Goals & Dreams is a grassroots hockey initiative of the NHLPA and its players introduced in November 1999. Through Goals & Dreams, NHL players have committed to donate up to $5 million per year worldwide to assist in the development of hockey in communities that do not have the resources to do so on their own.

From its inception, Goals & Dreams has provided assistance in excess of $8 million to more than 170 grassroots hockey programs worldwide. Given the diversity in nationality of NHL players, Goals & Dreams is specifically designed to help develop hockey in Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Romania, Latvia, England, Kazakhstan and other countries. To date, approximately 4,500 children living in those countries have received full sets of new hockey equipment from NHL players through Goals & Dreams.

In addition to the equipment donations, small communities all around the world have received other equipment donations, ranging from hockey nets, boards and glass to ice plants for making and maintaining ice and Zambonis for cleaning the ice.

One such place that has received equipment from Goals & Dreams is the city of Ust Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, the birthplace of San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeny Nabokov. In 2001 and 2002, $64,000 worth of equipment was sent to underprivileged youth in that community. Prior to that donation, children were playing on outdoor rinks in minus-30 degree weather, wearing the same shabby old equipment worn by their grandparents. This new equipment has outfitted 206 children out of a total population of 400 children in that city.

Goals & Dreams is headed by former NHL all-star and hall of famer Mike Gartner and program manager Devin Smith. They are assisted by an independent advisory board made of prominent members of the hockey community, including hockey great Paul Henderson, well-known hockey analyst John Davidson, and the host of CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada," Ron McLean. Individual players such as Ed Belfour, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and many others have been actively involved in Goals & Dreams.

In light of all the negative stories surrounding professional sports today, it is refreshing to hear of some of the many, many good things that professional sports still stands for. Goals & Dreams ranks among the best of those stories.

Jeffrey Citron (jcitron@goodmans.ca) is a sports and corporate finance lawyer with Goodmans LLP in Toronto.

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