When the Cambridge Rivulettes faceoff against the Kitchener-Waterloo Rangers in their U22 Ontario Women’s Hockey Association game on Jan. 27 there will be more on the minds of the organization than wins and losses.
The regional rivals will be joining forces in the Rivulettes Team Up for Mental Health game in support of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council.
The impacts of mental health are nothing new to the OWHA or the Rivulettes.
In 2010 when Daron Richardson, the daughter of former National Hockey League player Luke Richardson, died by suicide in Ottawa, the Do It For Daron charity was formed.
The charity’s mission of creating awareness, inspiring conversations and transforming youth mental health has been supported by the OWHA ever since.
The Rivulettes began running mental health initiatives a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic and will be doing so for the first time post-pandemic on Friday night.
“Our key goal is to raise awareness about mental health and support those who are struggling with it,” Rivulettes general manager Rob Hedges said.
“The families and staff of the Rivulettes have seen the struggles of our young people and in particular what COVID isolation has done. We would like to raise funds to support the important work that the WRSPC does by providing education, training and community engagement initiatives utilizing suicide prevention and positive life promotion messaging.”
The Rivulettes walk the walk when it comes to mental health. Aside from the annual fundraiser, the team has a mental health coach that the players can access 24/7 if they need someone to talk to.
The coach also helps players with their approach to the game, how to prepare and most importantly how to deal with setbacks and performance.
Just like athletic trainers are needed to help in the recovery of physical injuries, a coach is a necessity for mental health, Hedges says.
“It's no different if the player hurt their knee or their shoulder, their well-being both physically and mentally is a major priority for us,” he said.
“We can teach hockey on the ice but without physical and mental well-being, there's no hockey.”
It’s all part of the organization’s effort to be a safe, welcoming place for their athletes. It’s an aspect of sports Hedges has seen grow over the past several decades.
“I think we’ve seen improvements in awareness,” Hedges said.
“More people talking about mental health means it becomes normal, which also means that more people will feel comfortable reaching out when they need help.”