Messier look­ing for ways to get kids back into hockey

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Hockey equip­ment has come a long way since Mark Messier used mag­a­zines as shin­pads for a game of road hockey as a kid.

The Hall of Famer hasn’t for­got­ten those days and is help­ing lead a cam­paign to help get chil­dren - and their par­ents - an af­ford­able door into the game.

Hockey Canada, Cana­dian Tire and Bauer, the iconic equip­ment maker look­ing to re­claim its turf af­ter tough fi­nan­cial times, are also in­volved in the First Shift pro­gram, which Messier’s sis­ter helped cre­ate.

All of the par­tic­i­pants have their rea­sons for be­ing in­volved but for Messier the goal is sim­ple - to keep grow­ing Canada’s sport.

“When we did the study to be­gin the pro­gram, nine out of 10 kids in the coun­try were not play­ing hockey, which you would think was the other way around,” Messier said in an in­ter­view. “I think that set the alarm bells off for ev­ery­body.”

The man known as Moose says for­get Bauer, busi­ness sales and ev­ery­thing else. Look at the world hockey scene.

“If Canada is to main­tain its su­pe­ri­or­ity - or per­ceived su­pe­ri­or­ity - at the in­ter­na­tional level, at the Olympic level, we have to some­how fig­ure out (how) to max­i­mize our tal­ent pool in our coun­try,” said Messier, a six-time Stan­ley Cup win­ner who has served as a Team Canada coach and GM.

“So there’s a big­ger game be­ing played as well as just the re­tail side of it. The big­ger vi­sion is how does Canada stay at that elite level? And by cre­at­ing more tal­ent, in­tro­duc­ing more kids (to hockey), I think is one way of do­ing it there.”

Messier’s sis­ter Mary-Kay Messier, vice-pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing for Bauer Hockey, has spear­headed the project, look­ing for ways to in­tro­duce kids aged six to 10 to the sport by break­ing down the bar­ri­ers of en­try and mak­ing par­ents feel com­fort­able in bring­ing their kids to the rink.

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