Game on for the Ottawa Valley's outdoor hockey league
For many Canadians, hockey represents a sense of pride and community.
For a handful of families in the Ottawa Valley, their first games are played in a league unlike most.
The Shady Nook outdoor hockey league in Laurentian Valley highlights Canada's game under the lights and in the elements of winter.
"Especially when the snow starts to fall it gives us that, 'we're part of something' feeling," league convenor Heather Samson says.
"Parents get cheering, the kids get yelling and the more the snow falls the happier the kids seem to get."
At the mercy of Mother Nature, the league only runs for six to eight weeks at the start of the New Year.
It also offers the game of hockey - a sport out of the price range of many families - at an affordable cost of $95 for the season.
"Basically because it's outside, it's a shorter season than traditional indoor hockey obviously as well," Samson tells CTV News.
The lack of ice rental fees is an added bonus.
"And a lot of it does rely on Mother Nature so we give that reduced cost just to help offset the fact that Mother Nature may not always be on our side," Samson said.
This season, 70 players between the ages of 4 to 14 registered to play. Samson says that number was up between 300 to 400 players 10-15 years ago.
For the Benoit family, the very first game in a young hockey career is played in the league in Shady Nook.
"It's good for the children to socialize and have fun," says Gerry Benoit, whose 8-year-old is playing their first game.
"It's not all about scoring goals. As you can see, there's no goalies and it's just about getting out there, having some fun, and getting some fresh air."
The non-competitive league is where 31-year-old Pembroke resident Tyler Lapointe began his hockey days. Now his 8-year-old son is doing the same.
"I played in Shady Nook when I was a kid too, and he's really good. He's learning," Lapointe says, watching on from the top of a snow bank.
"He's been wanting to play, so this is a good league to start him off in for sure. If he likes it, we'll go play in Pembroke maybe."
"It takes a village to bring kids together and this is what it's all about," adds Benoit.
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