‘Tremendous’ World Juniors 50/50 support means money for Alberta Hockey program development

Canada and Russia take to the ice for warm up during IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship pre-competition action in Edmonton on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

For the first time in World Juniors history, the 50/50 draw went online this year, and fans did not disappoint.

“It exceeded our expectations, that’s for sure,” said Riley Wiwchar, executive director of the World Junior Championship.

“It was a tremendous 12 days where really the pots grew every single draw.”

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“Alberta’s historically a great 50/50 province, so we thought there’d be some pretty high numbers, but admittedly, I think it definitely exceeded what we thought,” Wiwchar said.

“To get to where we did in that final day was a little bit overwhelming. It was pretty incredible — the support from people across the province.”

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Every jackpot was split between a winner who was drawn and grassroots hockey programs in Alberta.

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Thanks to this year’s 50/50, Alberta Hockey will benefit from about $21.2 million in funding.

“It’s going to provide tremendous opportunity for the Hockey Alberta Foundation,” Wiwchar said.

“Now there’s some money there that they can grow existing programs, but really build on new ones.”

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A current program that will likely get a boost is Every Kid Every Community. Wiwchar said it provides opportunities to play hockey to kids who might not otherwise have them.

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“It involves providing grant money for registration fees, new equipment for kids, reducing ice costs so they can get on the ice,” he explained.

Hockey Alberta’s volunteer network will also receive some support thanks to the new funds.

“This year, unfortunately, we weren’t able to have as many volunteers as we would have wanted,” Wiwchar said. “So some of the money’s going to go into that. That’s recruitment of volunteers, that’s to keep people volunteering.”

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“And, the Future Leaders program that Hockey Alberta Foundation does, which is a coaching program, trying to get post-secondary students into the game through coaching.”

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The financial support to bolster these programs, Wiwchar says, has a wider impact than just to Hockey Alberta.

“We think it’s tremendously important, not just for hockey but for society in general. We think it’s important to have kids involved in physical activity… keeping communities healthy and really keeping kids involved in something that’s positive.”

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