Winning. It’s a concept that dominates our society. Chess matches. Olympic competitions. School tests. It’s all about coming first. We talk about it and want it. Some victories are easy to determine because we rely on standings, or scores to provide a defined measurement of success. Then there are other victories, the ones that are decided by more subtle and often more meaningful ways.
The Mississauga Terriers Bantam hockey team knows all about victories. Most of the group has been together for a number of years, and they’ve had their share of winning. They are undoubtedly a good hockey team, but they have shown they are far more than that.
On an unusually warm Sunday afternoon late in November as the calendar turned towards December and the Christmas season these 17 Terriers, dressed in their blue jerseys, were the centre of attention in Toronto’s Moss Park.
Few of these boys had ever been there, Moss Park is a long way from the neatly manicured lawns of Mississauga. Talk to real estates agent and you will get the story of gentrification, of new developments. Talk to first responders and you’ll get a different story. It was the location of Toronto’s first safe injection sites, and that’s for a very good reason. Many of the people who wander the streets there are in desperate need of help. Across the road is a large Salvation Army centre and around the corner are various hostels where people line up at night to find a bed and perhaps some food when darkness comes. When you walk down the street it is common to be approached for loose change for a meal or a drink.
It’s those conditions that drew the Terrier families and kids to the park. In mid-morning they arrived, parked their vehicles and set up a table in the middle of the park in place that was easily seen. They carried over lunch bags filled with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, a granola bar and some fruit. Five from every family on the team.
Taking up most of the space were the 250 blankets donated by families and friends. Imagine how important it is to stay warm when you’re sleeping under a tree when the temperature is below the freezing point. Some of the players hung back and stood around the table to hand out the necessities of street life that they had painstakingly collected. Others were more adventurous and wanted to learn about the neighbourhood and the people, so they wandered off in different directions while handing out the food bags and the blankets.
Wherever they went they were greeted with smiles and warm greetings. And that’s what they remember from spending an afternoon helping those who don’t have the benefit of a loving family, food in the cupboard and a warm bedroom. It’s one of those victories that doesn’t come from a number on a scoreboard.