Although warm weather and poor ice conditions resulted in the cancellation of the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships earlier this month, preparations remain on schedule for another well-known hockey event that will descend on Muskoka for the first time in late March.
Now in its 34th year, the annual Docs on Ice tournament will bring nearly a thousand doctors, residents and support staff to Huntsville for a weekend of celebrating Canada’s favourite pastime, all the while raising money for an important cause with proceeds benefitting Hospice Huntsville and Hospice Muskoka.
Beginning with just eight teams in 1983, the tournament has grown over the past three decades to feature 56 teams and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for various local charities and medical organizations. Towns and cities volunteer to host, with Muskoka having been asked multiple times in the past but prior to the construction of the Canada Summit Centre simply didn’t have enough rinks to facilitate the event.
Now, between the two ice pads at the CSC and the support of arenas in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Baysville and Burk’s Falls, in addition to the hosting capacity of Deerhurst Resort for all off-ice activities, the infrastructure was in place to bring the tournament to Muskoka.
It’s a big deal for the local hospice, who was selected by the Docs on Ice executive and the host organizing committee to be the charity partner of the tournament.
This is a huge opportunity for us. Every year in order to keep our services free of charge to our clients, families and residents, we need to raise about $350,000. It’s a large amount because everything here is free of charge, including staying at Algonquin Grace and our grief support programs.
Melissa Polischuk, Public Relations and Fundraising Coordinator for Hospice Huntsville
“We did consider other options, but the reality was hospice just seemed like such an obvious selection,” says Dr. Tim Lapp, who is the head of the local organizing committee. Dr. Lapp has been involved with the tournament for the past quarter century, and will once again lead the local team of 17 players on the ice. “Hospice had just opened here in Huntsville when we made the decision, and we knew that south of us hospice services were in need as well. It really wasn’t much of a debate, we all agreed this would be the best choice and hospice was very happy to help. They are not just recipients, they are also integral members of this organizing committee.”
About 60 percent of hospice funding is covered by the Local Health Integration Network, with the remaining 40 percent of the budget coming through various fundraising efforts. These include signature events such as the Hike and Swim for Hospice, ‘In Memoriam’ donations, and the 500 Club. The money raised from the Docs on Ice tournament will represent a huge contribution towards hospice’s sustainability funding for the coming year.
The fundraising aspect also includes sponsorship at a local level, and the organizing committee will soon be soliciting requests for local members of Muskoka’s business community to sponsor the event or donate items to the tournament’s silent auction, which in the past has raised up to $20,000.
“To be honest, I don’t know what the community did without hospice, Algonquin Grace, and all of our programs and services,” says Polischuk. Huntsville Hospice as an organization has been around since 1989, with the local residential facility first opening its doors in January 2012.
“It’s just amazing how much of a difference it has made in people’s lives. Not only in residents staying here, or residents being able to stay at home, but also the family members and caregivers. Hospice has helped so many people in the community of any age to deal with the journey that they are going through.”
The Docs on Ice tournament begins with a reception at Deerhurst Resort on Thursday March 31, with games taking place from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm the following Friday and Saturday. The tournament banquet is scheduled for Friday night at Deerhurst. Learn more about Docs on Ice at docsonice.ca.