2021 hcf assist fund jj e

Assist Fund in Action – J.J.’s story

Thanks to help from the Hockey Canada Foundation and Scotiabank, the eight-year-old is on the ice and making memories with his mom

Katie Brickman
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February 2, 2021
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J.J. Prokosh shares a special bond with his mom Tasha on and off the ice.

Hockey was one of Tasha’s first loves – she grew up playing the game, appeared with Team B.C. at the Western Shield and played in college. After having her children, her priorities shifted and hockey was put on the back-burner.

But with J.J. showing interest in the game, that passion became a shared connection.

“I remember when J.J. got interested in skating. We were returning books to the library and the rink is right beside the library. I asked him if he wanted to learn how to skate and he said he did,” says Tasha. “I took him skating the next week and he loved it.”

Skating was something Tasha incorporated into their home-schooling schedule before J.J. went into organized hockey with the Coquitlam Minor Hockey Association.

Eight-year-old J.J. is on the ice thanks to help from his family and other partners, like the Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund and Scotiabank, which donated $350,000 to the Assist Fund to help young athletes who are Black, Indigenous and persons of colour cover registration fees. The family learned about the Assist Fund through the Coquitlam MHA and has been grateful for the additional resources to keep J.J. playing the game he loves.

“Any help is good – I’m a single parent and I do it all on my own, so this helps make things so much easier when we can access these funds and get help paying for his season,” says Tasha.

After playing the game for many years, Tasha didn’t think that coaching would be for her. But after J.J. had a “disappointing experience” with a coach when he was five, she stepped up and has been helping coach ever since.

“It totally changed my perspective and I realized that if I am not willing to change something, I can’t complain,” she says. “So, I put on the coaching hat because I had the background and we needed to do it in a way that put the kids first.”

Tasha has that same philosophy off the ice, where the Prokosh family structure is unique.

She is a single mom raising three children – Alexa, who has cerebral palsy, middle son Gabe, and J.J., who is Black. She also dealt with loss; her daughter Faith died in 2013 to kidney failure due to complications with cerebral palsy.

“Our family story is complicated and unique to say the least,” says Tasha. “We cover the gamut in our house – single, Black, white and disabled.”

Even as a child, J.J. noticed that he was one of the few Black hockey players in the community. Tasha had conversations with J.J. about race and used it as a learning opportunity to be open to people of all backgrounds.

“I think when he was younger, he noticed it more. He mentioned it a couple of times and we’ve had some difficult discussions,” says Tasha. “We’ve always come back to – its okay to be who you are. I want J.J. to be proud of who he is and be proud that he is Black.”

“It doesn’t bother me anymore,” J.J. says. “I don’t care if you are white, Black, brown or purple.”

J.J.’s favourite player is former Vancouver Canucks superstar Pavel Bure, but seeing a player like Quinton Byfield lace up for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in December made an impression.

“When we saw Byfield on the ice, I told J.J. he looks like a grown version of him,” says Tasha. “He was excited to see someone that looked like him playing on that stage. I told him it would be him in 15 years.”

As much as J.J. and his team would love to be playing games and honing their skills, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means they have only been able to scrimmage this season, which has been a struggle.

“It is hard on the kids to not be able to play games,” says Tasha.

As J.J. works on his game with hopes of becoming an NHL defenceman one day, he knows his family will be rooting for him – especially his mom.

“I’ve learned a lot from her – be the best you can, play your game and be smart.”

Applications for the Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund are now closed for the 2020-21 season, but donations are being accepted. More information for the 2021-22 season will be unveiled in the spring.

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
dsaillant@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

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