2024 Season Update

March 30th, 2024

Play On! Canada is a Federally registered not for profit organization. Like other non-profit sports organizations, it is dependent on contributions from outside funding partners.

For Play On!, these outside funding partners have in the past included all levels of government, as well as other sponsors and donors that have provided funding necessary to market and operate mass participation street hockey events safely in every province and territory across Canada.

The Play On! program, which requires investment of approximately $7.5M to operate safely in 20+ communities across Canada each year, and which generates approximately 25% of its revenues through registrations, was previously funded and promoted by the CBC. While CBC continues to support the program by providing the Hockey Night in Canada brand, it has not been able to continue to fund the operation and promotion of Play On! since NHL broadcast rights shifted to Sportsnet in 2015. Sportsnet and Play On! Canada have more recently entered into a multi-year promotional partnership through 2027 conditional on operational funding for the program being secured. We are grateful to Sportsnet and CBC for their continued support of all communities that wish to Play On!

In the Canadian sport system, national sports events are funded equally in part by each level of government (Municipal, Provincial, and Federal), with each level typically willing to fund only up to one-third of the cost of an event. For 2024, sixteen municipalities and six provinces made partial commitments towards hosting Play On! events, but these were conditional on the Federal Government also making a commitment. We are also grateful to each of these Provinces and Municipalities for their desire and willingness to host Play On! events and make them possible in their communities again.

Earlier this week written communication from the Federal Government (Ministry of Sport and Physical Activity) was received indicating that it would not be providing the remaining operational funding necessary to make the 2024 Play On! Canada national project possible at this time. The Ministry indicated that while they support this program, they had limited funds available. It is also understood that the Ministry is working through broader financial challenges at this time.

While our all-volunteer Board of Directors is disappointed in this decision, we
acknowledge that the Ministry makes determinations about what programs are to be prioritized and respect their decision in this matter.

Play On! Canada is the largest, most inclusive, and most successful mass participation team sports event in Canada’s history and holds the Guinness record as the largest event of its kind in the world. Many of its events attract more than 600 participating teams and over 5000 participants annually, making each single Play On! community event larger, for example, than the Canada Games. An investment in national mass participation sport is one of the most efficient investments a Government can make because of its capacity to improve economic activity, physical activity and literacy, preventative health, job creation, youth empowerment, community connectivity, and social vitality. These benefits accrue to individuals of any gender, age, and circumstance and in every part of Canada. Play On! events are also known to attract participation from travellers from all over North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, and South America.

Our organization desires to continue to host these events knowing that Canadian communities need them.

Play On! is a truly Canadian success story we can all be proud of, an institution that preserves street play as part of Canada’s heritage and culture, a program that encourages friendlier neighbourhoods, healthier and more active living, and the integration and reconciliation of society. It is proven to combat youth mental health and obesity trends and is a model in mass participation physical activity for all the world.

Play On! events also revitalize downtown communities, generating over $66M in annual economic impact each year. The program creates a sense of belonging for newcomers through sport, provides countless opportunities for girls and women, creates thousands of work and volunteer opportunities annually for youth, is popular amongst Indigenous peoples, and, ultimately, unifies all of Canada.

This is a project that is needed now more than ever before. We express gratitude to Hockey Canada and numerous affiliate organizations for recently announcing their wholehearted support of this program.

The Play On! Canada organization has invested in a new technology platform that will serve as the engine for the future sustainability of this program and other sport organizations like it. The revenues created by the technology will come during and after the events occur.

We will continue to explore funding pathways so Play On! Canada events can operate again as soon as possible. We will announce event dates and locations when the organization is able to secure the remaining funding necessary to ensure that it can deliver the program safely.

We invite all Canadians including individuals, foundations, corporations, charities and governments to engage now to help ensure and prepare for its return. Qualified and experienced individuals can volunteer on community-based planning committees, grant writing, technology development, or other fundraising outreach, for example. Reach out to suggest how you can help by email.

The Board of Directors

Play On! Canada