Youth hockey can be expensive – in terms of both dollars and time.
Unlike other sports that rely on fields and courts, the limited availability of ice rinks in many areas of the country mean that parents are often shuttling players in the predawn dark before school or well into the evening, usually well beyond a typical child’s bedtime.
The price of gear can stretch the limits, too. From skates to helmets, gloves, sticks and even the bag itself to haul all the equipment around, some moms and dads put in a second shift to help make the hockey dream for their children come true.
Devon Toews, a defenseman for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, knows all of this because it wasn’t too long ago that he was playing youth hockey himself, and his parents were sacrificing on his behalf.
“Growing up, I remember my parents working two jobs to make it work for my brother and me,” Toews recalled.
At 28 years of age, the Canadian native began playing at age six. Early mornings, late nights – and second-and -hird hand equipment hand-me-downs. Drafted as a college player by the New York Islanders in 2014, Toews was traded to Colorado in 2020. He helped lead the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup championship last season.
Last month, at an ice rink just a few miles north of Focus on the Family, Devon Toews surprised the Colorado Rampage – a 10 and under hockey team comprised of kids just like the Stanley Cup champion player a couple of decades ago. Showing up at the rink that Tuesday night, Toews brought new skates and equipment for all the players, including hockey bags.
“This donation was important to [my wife] Kerry and I as we know the joy the game of hockey has brought to us and our family.” Toews shared. “We know the financial burdens of this sport can be troublesome, and if we are able to give kids the opportunity to experience it in some way then we want to help.”
But is the generosity motivated by merely meeting and responding to financial burdens alone? Not quite, and not by a lot.
Devon Toews is a strong Christian. Raised in a Mennonite Brethren congregation in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the now hockey star attended Christian institutions through high school. His family endured their share of hardships. His grandfather was born in a Mennonite settlement in Ukraine, before moving to Paraguay and then Bolivia. Devon’s father emigrated to Canada from Bolivia in 1971.
Toews’ donation was made in partnership with Bauer, the leading provider of hockey gear. The Bauer Skate Company dates back to 1927 and the Western Shoe Company, which pioneered the first ice skate which featured the blade attached to the boot.
But on this day in Monument, Colo., Toews was focused on giving back to the next generation. “Those kids were so happy to receive some new gear and some cool swag as well. To brighten up their day, making it a little easier on the families as well is really special.”
News is all too often the noise and the nastiness of the day. It tends to focus on people behaving badly. But it’s good to be reminded every now and again that big-hearted people of the Christian faith like Devon Toews are out there making a difference – and making people’s days, even one child at a time.