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Rallying in lavender

With sticks wrapped in lavender tape, players from Hockey Regina are leading the charge to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society through Hockey Fights Cancer

Shannon Coulter
November 19, 2021

Certain colours can hold special meanings and unite communities. For example, when Canadians think of red, we think about the pride of representing the Maple Leaf.

In Regina, Sask., the colour lavender is the talk of the town. That’s because Hockey Regina is running its Lavender Days campaign in association with the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Cancer touches so many, and it’s important to me to have the players remember that there’s bigger stuff than them,” says Joanne Eberle, the media and events manager with Hockey Regina. “The kids really take ownership of it.”

Now in its third year, about 170 teams in Regina participate in the fundraising drive to support Hockey Fights Cancer through November and December. Lavender tape is put on sticks, decals are placed on helmets and the two AAA teams in town wear lavender jerseys that are later auctioned off for the campaign. From Timbits U7 to U18, the players on each team decide how they want to raise money and give back to their community.

“They were pieing their coach, they were doing candy guess jars, they were doing all kinds of stuff,” Eberle says. “We have some teams that will shovel snow, they’ll donate their allowance, or they’ll do a read-a-thon or a walk-a-thon or exercise in some way. We really left it open to all the teams.”

Eight-year-old Aliya Hartney had her own creative idea to help raise money for Lavender Days.

“I did a video and I talked about cancer and why we help people because you want to help people to not lose their loved ones from cancer,” she says.

That sentiment hits close to home for Hartney as her grandmother died from brain cancer when her mother was only four years old. Her video helped to raise $1,505 for Lavender Days.

“I like helping people,” she says. “The more money we raise, the closer we can get to find a cure for cancer.”

The campaign takes on a deeper meaning when people in the hockey community have personal connections to cancer. Following the conclusion of a previous Lavender Days campaign, a player received a cancer diagnosis. Their team responded by bringing back lavender tape for their sticks to show support.

“It’s something that doesn’t just stick with them for the two months that we do it,” Eberle says. “It’s something that they carry through the whole season.”

For the special AAA Lavender Games, each home team chose someone associated with the team that had a cancer story for a ceremonial puck drop. The Regina Pat Canadians chose a 12-year-old hockey player who was battling cancer. The Regina Rebels chose their trainer’s two-year-old nephew, who was also fighting cancer.

“If there was a dry eye in that house, I’d be surprised,” Eberle says. “It was such a big impact, having this little guy come out there and drop the puck and knowing why he was there.”

Daren Haygarth has been a hockey coach for close to 20 years. The support for Lavender Days in his community has had a profound effect on him based on his family’s connection to cancer.

“My sister-in-law has gone through nine surgeries related to a breast cancer diagnosis and gone through chemo,” he says. “When my son tapes up his sticks and writes her name on them, all of those things tug at my heartstrings a lot.”

Last May, Haygarth began his own personal cancer journey. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful surgery in July 2020. Haygarth initially kept his diagnosis private, but over time he began to tell his friends in the hockey community.

“Of course, my family was super supportive, but you start to realize how supportive the hockey world is,” he says. “The support was just overwhelming.”

Haygarth is now cancer free, but the support he received from his community after his experience reinforced how many positives come from a fundraising campaign like Lavender Days.

“There’s no such thing as a tough time where other people won’t be there to help you through it. I think that’s what I’ve really come to appreciate about Lavender Days and the fundraising efforts that go with it. It’s just raising that kind of awareness that things are bigger than ourselves.”

His U13 AA team, the Regina Royals, is running 50/50 draws this month to support Lavender Days.

“I wasn’t surprised [when] one of our parents won the 50/50 and they just donated it all back,” he says. “Our goal is to raise over $1,000 this month, and we’re way beyond probably going to meet that goal.”

Although Hockey Regina couldn’t do as much fundraising last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has managed to raise over $26,000 in the past two years. Earlier this month, Hockey Regina’s youth players were the recipients of a philanthropic award for Outstanding Youth Philanthropist for their efforts with Lavender Days.

“That’s really exciting for them,” Eberle says. “It’s a youth award, so it doesn’t have anything to do with the adults… it’s about the players and what they’ve done as a whole.

“This is a great way to show kids that your little efforts can turn into something big.”

The goal this year is to raise over $20,000 for Hockey Fights Cancer. Haygarth credits Eberle for leading the creation of positive social interaction between teams while raising money for a good cause.

“It takes somebody within the organization to spearhead these things and create that culture shift,” he says. “I think Joanne’s been a big catalyst here in Regina towards thinking a little differently about hockey and what being a hockey player means.”

For Eberle, the fact the entire community is rallying around a unified cause while decked out in lavender warms her heart.

“Being able to do this as a minor hockey association as a whole is really exciting,” she says. “It unites everybody. Hockey is competitive, but they [put] that aside and turn into one big team. I absolutely love that.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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