Steering Committees Unite to Make Play On! 2024 Possible

Planning Committees Ensure Play On! Events are Community Led

By: Mathew Potichnyj

Since May, Canada Summer Jobs employees at Play On! Canada have been working tirelessly requesting meetings with community and business leaders and extending invitations for purposes of organizing community-led steering (planning) committees. The committees are formed of business and not for profit executives, elected officials or their appointed representatives, sports organizations, educators, and other stakeholders and community leaders who share an understanding of and vision for the positive impacts created by the hosting of a Play On! event in their city. Our teams have been calling on these leaders to volunteer their time to make it happen, and we are pleased to share that the call is being answered.

In 2024, Play On! Canada is proposing (not yet confirmed) to host up to 20 internationally attended mass participation street hockey events in up to 20 communities across the nation.The organization is also proposing (not yet confirmed) to host a National Championship in Ontario in September of 2024.

So far, out of 21 host cities, 12 have held their first steering committee meeting. Some of the cities that have held their first steering committee meeting include: Yarmouth, NS, Lethbridge, AB, Surrey, BC, Yellowknife, NT, and Windsor, ON. I took some time to reach out to Canada Summer Jobs employees and steering committee members from each of these five cities. There is plenty of excitement and promise building for the project in 2024.

Building a steering committee from scratch can be a difficult task for many reasons, and Corey Barnes, a CSJ employee for the Play On! Canada project based in Nova Scotia agrees. He says “getting the first few people” was the hardest part, but once the first couple of people committed to join the team “it just takes off from there”. Deputy Mayor of Yarmouth, Steve Berry, has never formally been a part of a Play On! Canada planning committee, but was extremely intrigued by the opportunity of joining the team when he was approached by Corey. He recalls when Play On! last had an event in Yarmouth and described it as “phenomenal for the town”, so when he found out that Play On! would be returning to his city, he was “very excited to be a part of things”. Deputy Mayor Berry believes that “the community, the love for hockey in Yarmouth, and the committee will get it done” and will run a successful Play On! event in 2024.

In Lethbridge, AB, CSJ employee Owen Stewart and his team have held three Steering Committee meetings already, and to this point, have 15 committed community members on the team.Owen is extremely excited with the progress that has been made thus far. Owen had an easier time than some others in building the Lethbridge committee because he is from Lethbridge and “has many connections in the city”. The people that he is connected to “also have several connections and this made it possible to build a committee”. “Making sure everyone is on the same page has been challenging” but Owen uses the steering committee meetings to discuss and outline what the goals and expectations are for the team each month. Susan Eymann has been the Executive Director of the Lethbridge Sport Council since 2009 and is a part of the Steering Committee in Lethbridge. Susan has noticed that the (indoor) “ball hockey community in Lethbridge has dwindled and is non-existent” and believes that bringing a Play On! event to the city can bring the love for street hockey back to life. “Hockey numbers compared to other sports, are going down and using Play On! to market low-cost hockey can help this sport grow once again”. Susan noted that the City of Lethbridge has made a three-year funding commitment to the project which has really helped to bring the planning committee together.The Lethbridge Steering committee is being chaired by Sarah Amies, the Executive Director of the Downtown Lethbridge Revitalization District.

Surrey, BC, has many new employees working on the project this year and only has one returning employee from the past. Therefore, new CSJ employee Tristan Ranford (whose Father, Bill Ranford, played in the NHL) says that the most challenging part of putting together a steering committee was knowing “how exactly to reach out, and then explaining the need for and the logistics behind a steering committee”. Tristan also has noticed that while there is a funding commitment from the Province of BC for the Surrey event, but not yet a funding commitment from the City of Surrey, people have “a harder time committing to joining the steering committee”. Still, Tristan and her team have made it happen.Nineteen people attended the first steering committee meeting in Surrey, and twenty-two people attended the second meeting.Paul Orazietti is the Executive Director of the BIA in Cloverdale, where the Surrey event was held in 2022. He believes that Play On! will be a huge success because “Play On! is an inclusive street hockey festival in the middle of the summer which is as Canadian as it gets”. Paul recognizes that the event “in a classic small town (Cloverdale) contained in a big city (Surrey) is perfect for street hockey and having one of the largest youth populations in Western Canada” will ensure that this event is a success.

Alec Parker is a CSJ employee for the project in Yellowknife and being new to working on a project in Yellowknife has been one of Alec’s largest challenges when putting together the steering committee. Alec mentioned that he “emailed many dozens of people” and “only got a response from six of the people he initially reached out to”. However, through hard work, and by leveraging the relationships of other committee members, Alec was able to form the steering committee for Yellowknife, and they held their first meeting earlier this month. (Note: We send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the fires near Yellowknife and throughout the surrounding region.This is a very scary time and we are with you).

Windsor, Ontario, is also exploring the possibility of hosting a Play On! community event in 2024, and CSJ employee Iain Sutcliffe was one of three team members responsible for gathering a steering committee for that project. “Getting responses originally and coordinating to plan a meeting with conflicting schedules” was very challenging for Iain and team Windsor. However, the team of CSJ employees have managed to get 11 confirmed members to join the committee thus far, with more pending. One of the goals that was set out at the start for Team Windsor was to identify ways to close the large funding gap between the amount it costs to operate a Play On! event and the amount that can be generated through registrations, given that the goal is to keep registration costs as low as possible in order to maximize the number of people who can participate. With the CSJ employees unable to source enough funding on their own, they have engaged the Steering Committee and passed along information that helps committee members understand the circumstances. Since Steering Committee members are connected in the community with long standing relationships, they are better positioned to help identify grants and sponsorships for the event in Windsor.

Jeremy Renaud, a member of the Steering Committee in Windsor, said “It's important to have community leaders from the public, private, and non-profit amateur sport sector bring their talent, experience, and network to the mix. A unified committee will be able to engage the community toward executing a community building event of this stature while raising funds and awareness for the Play On! initiative.”

While each community is different, and the process of organizing a steering committee in each community is different, the purpose of organizing a steering committee in each city remains the same. Some communities have large committees that keep growing, while 9 of 21 projects wait to have their first. Committee meetings in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Brampton (the project I am working on), and others are scheduled before the end of this month.It is going to be a lot of fun to see our committee come together.

Every steering committee is responsible for appointing a Chairperson. This Chairperson is often elected by the rest of the steering committee and is responsible for many things including coming together with the Chair of every other committee in a monthly meeting of what is the National Steering Committee. Some other responsibilities include: conducting meetings according to agendas, making quick decisions, keeping deadlines in place, and being a good leader for the rest of the committee.

This opportunity to work on this project has been interesting. Our shared mission is to “build Canada one game at a time”, and to unite the country in the process. Organizing planning committees, explaining funding gaps, identifying pathways to close them, planning to close streets in the downtown core of major cities, promoting the event, receiving more interest from the youth in the community, and gathering the required volunteers for all of the events coast to coast are challenges that Steering committees everywhere are coming together to resolve.

We are grateful to the many (now more than 160) dedicated and committee members who have responded to the invitation to join a Steering Committee in their community.There is still lots of opportunity to get involved!If you would like to express your interest in becoming part of a Steering Committee in your community, contact us at CanadaSticksTogether@PlayOn.ca