NHL players help flood victims in High River with equipment

Minor hockey players in High River who lost equipment in the flood got a helping hand on Tuesday from NHL players and RBC bank.

NHL Players' Association and RBC donate $50K for hockey gear

Kids in High River were treated to a ball hockey game with the NHL pros on Tuesday. (CBC)

Minor hockey players in High River who lost equipment in the flood got a helping hand on Tuesday from NHL players and RBC bank.

Troy Kowal is one of dozens of young hockey players whose skates, pads, helmet and sticks were destroyed by floodwaters that devastated High River, Alta., in June.    

Young players in flood-devastated High River have new hockey equipment thanks to RBC and the National Hockey League Players' Association. (CBC)

The mass destruction of hockey equipment in basements and garages was one of a myriad of challenges his hometown has faced this summer as it rebuilds.   

But for minor hockey players and their parents, it was another part of their lives thrown into disarray.

"Pretty sad," said Kowal, a 14-year-old forward. "I love the sport. It was heartbreaking."  

The Foothills Minor Hockey Association got a helping hand from the National Hockey League Players' Association and RBC with the donation $50,000 for equipment Tuesday.    

Kowal estimates the cost of replacing his equipment would have been $2,000, so the assistance was welcome.    

"It's definitely better," he said. "It helps me cope with it. I'm excited for a new season.   

Calgary Flames forwards Matt Stajan and T.J. Galiardi and defencemen Derek Smith and Mark Giordano helped present a cheque Tuesday.  

They then joined minor hockey players for a game of ball hockey in a junior high gymnasium.    

The NHLPA's Goals and Dreams program has contributed millions of dollars to grassroots programs, but the High River initiative felt personal to Galiardi, who is from Calgary.    

"Everyone has been affected here so heavily with the floods, " he said. "If we can help out even a small bit we're happy to do so."  

Recreation centre rebuild

Restoration of the Bob Snodgrass Recreational Centre in High River is ongoing.  

The Foothills Association hopes to have the arena ready to launch the 2013-14 season.  

The prospect of a season seemed dimmer when so many of the 304 players in the Foothills hockey system were without equipment.

"Most of our kids were affected," association president Derek Harper said.

"Ninety-four per cent of all of our household dwellings were decimated. As far as hockey equipment, I wasn't sure we were going to have hockey this year.    

"Right now our numbers are looking very good. Most of our returning players are back."

The chance to play hockey again injects some normalcy into youngsters' lives which haven't felt normal this summer.

"The bigger issue for us here is these kids need something to do," said Troy Kowal's father Tom.

"We need these kids to have a feel-good story. Life has been so hard for these kids.

"Our town is rebuilding. We'll be fine and we'll rebuild, but we need things to feel good about."