They may not be able to play their sport of choice right now, but players on the Airdrie Lightning AA U18 boys' hockey team are still getting some pretty intense workouts – by shovelling snow for local seniors.
This winter, the team is taking part in North Rocky View Community Links’ Snow Angels program. The program pairs volunteers with a local resident who needs help with snow removal on their property.
“I think the boys take pride in this as a team,” said head coach Shaun Guest, who took over as the Lightning’s bench boss for the 2020-21 season. “This is another thing they can add to the list and be proud of their accomplishments this year."
Michelle Carre, the volunteer coordinator for Community Links, is in charge of the program. She said there are 15 residents and 27 volunteers signed up with Snow Angels this winter – including 19 athletes from the Lightning.
“We have people in our community who need help with snow removal, and it’s a good opportunity for people to help their neighbour, who they might not even know,” she said. “If I told you the person two doors down from you could use help with their snow shovelling, you’d probably be willing to help them out. We’re just making those connections in a clear manner.”
Every snowfall, the Lightning’s players are deployed to their assigned household to shovel snow from their assigned resident’s driveway and sidewalk. According to Carre, the players were each matched with someone based on proximity.
Up until recently, there wasn’t much for the players to do, thanks to a relatively dry autumn. But on Dec. 22, 2020, the players had their first big test of the winter, after more than 25 centimetres of snow fell the night prior.
“That was a gooder, but they all went out, got them done and they want to help,” Guest said. “They know the good they’re doing and they’re going to do it for the rest of the winter."
Sixteen-year-old Reed Chalmers, a forward for the Lightning, said the players enjoy being able to help their neighbours.
“We’re all young, fit guys, so it’s easy for us to walk across the road and shovel the walk for someone who it might be more difficult to do,” he said.
“It hasn’t been that often this year, because we didn’t get much snow, but that one day where it snowed a good foot, we were out there for a couple of hours. Normally, it’s just one or two times a week.”
Due to pandemic-related restrictions on team sports, the Lightning hasn’t been able to play or practise since mid-November. According to Chalmers, the players have been limited to exercising together over video chat.
“It totally sucks, but we’ve been doing team workouts over Zoom, so we’re staying fit enough,” he said. “Even though we’re not directly together, we’re all doing the same thing, so it feels nice.”
Guest said participating in Snow Angels has been another way for the Lightning to maintain a team atmosphere this season, while providing an important service at the same time.
“It’s a great program and people who can volunteer should definitely give [Community Links] a call,” he said. “There are a lot of people who need the help.”