Messier looking for ways to get kids back into hockey
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.