By Rosie Serna
It all started with Thanksgiving.
In 2004, my husband and I had moved to Canada from Colombia, with our daughter Manuela who was 7 at the time and our son Martin who was 3. We initially moved to Montreal but ended up settling in Calgary where we’ve been ever since.
In Colombia, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so it was the first Canadian holiday we embraced as a family. I love that celebration. In Colombia, we don’t have seasons so we don’t celebrate the harvest. We have fresh vegetables for the whole year. So I bought a turkey and we celebrated Thanksgiving. My family was happy.
It was around this time, my son started talking about hockey. Not just talking a little bit, but every day. He was in elementary school and we had him in a good soccer program because that is the one sport we knew from Colombia. But Martin wanted to play hockey so the questions started.
Why can’t I do hockey?
Why don’t I play hockey?
Why aren’t I playing hockey?
Finally, I said to my husband we are going to have to do this. So I started to research. I went to my office and asked colleagues how the game works and little by little I learned. But I kept hearing from people that hockey is expensive, so I didn’t think we could afford to put Martin in.
Martin started to refuse to play soccer. He would not go to practices or games anymore he just wanted to do hockey, hockey, hockey. I knew we had to get him into hockey because he’s a boy, he needed to be active and he had ADHD so it was important for us to get him involved in something.
At the same time, I had been receiving emails from a centre for new Canadian immigrants with various information. It was in one of these emails that a company called Football Hockey Link (FHL), was mentioned, so I decided to reach out to. FHL is a non-profit organization that helps with the integration of culturally diverse children into Canadian society by facilitating their involvement in football and hockey. They were incredibly instrumental in helping my son see his dream of playing hockey come true.
For 5 years Martin played recreational hockey. I paid his hockey fees to play the season but we couldn’t have done it all without the support of the rest of the community. We were able to access Comrie Sports Bank and every year we got equipment for free. Through KidSport Martin was able to take additional camps at no cost and we also got a free semester with a company called Skillz that helped him with his hockey development.
Martin loved to play and we loved to watch him play. My Mom came up to visit us a few times and Martin always found her to be a good luck charm. I always had to bring blankets and coats to games when she came because she found it cold but he always scored a goal when she was at his games. We laughed because she used to say watching hockey was like watching a bunch of boys chase a mouse around the ice.
We are not in Columbia anymore but people always say to us why would you come here, the weather is better where you are, the food is better where you are, but my husband and I never say that to our kids. We are grateful every single day that we live in this country. We know the differences between the two countries that include the differences in security, education, and opportunities.
For us, it was important to get involved and to get involved in hockey. My son doesn’t play anymore, but our family has embraced the game. My husband used to watch games without understanding what was going on, because he only spoke Spanish. Now he knows exactly what is going on, he follows the NHL, the games, the standings and of course he is an avid Calgary Flames Fan. As for Martin, too follows the league but he fell in love with the Boston Bruins and hopes one day to visit the city and see a game.
Hockey is everything in this country and the opportunities we got to be involved in the sport as a family, makes me feel so good. The sport is now apart of our lives and we couldn’t be more happy about it.