“Okay, I’m bringing the Cheesies!”
That was the first reaction of one of the Barrie Colts players when Maria Morra, director of resident programs and admissions at Owen Hill Care Community in Barrie, said that the players would be welcome to join the residents for bingo. Cheesies are often used as prizes on bingo night, and the players were all excited about returning to the home for a second visit.
Their first visit saw the Colts surprising veterans, residents and family at Owen Hill with a three-hour visit, several boxes of pizza, and a signed jersey and poster. Residents gathered together in the multipurpose room, eager to meet a ‘surprise hockey guest,’ having no idea that the entire team would be coming in to see them.
“Oh it was a lovely surprise,” said Winnie, a resident at Owen Hill and veteran of WWII. “It was very nice of them to meet us and say thank you to me as a veteran.”
Maria scheduled the surprise visit in honour of Remembrance Day, thinking that it would be a nice tribute to the veterans.
“We thought, because it was Remembrance Day, it would be nice to have something to give tribute to our veterans, because they’re such a big part of our society,” she said. “It is so important to remember them and thank them.”
Owen Hill is a fairly small care community, so even though nearly half of the residents came to the event, everyone was able to get one-on-one time with one of the eight players. Most tables had about three residents and one or two players, who were quick to fill the room with chatter.
“It was very intimate, quaint, and very personable… the players didn’t feel like they were walking into this big auditorium,” Maria said. “The residents were in awe… because the Barrie colts are such a big part of Barrie, and a lot of these players get drafted for the NHL.”
Harry Hadden, a resident at the event, was president of the Barrie Colts hockey team when they won the championships in 1977-78. His wife was kind enough to bring in his jacket for him, something the players loved.
“It was very nice of the young men to come and visit,” Harry said. “You know they don’t have a lot of time, because they need to practice and they have a busy schedule. The advice I gave them is to go home every night and get rest… it’s important, you know.”
During their visit, the players asked the residents about their favourite activities, unsurprisingly, many residents mentioned bingo.
“The players turned to me, and I said, ‘Yep, you’re welcome to come,’” Maria said. “I even talked to the community outreach contact, and she said they had a great time, and that when they got back to the [hockey] club they were telling the other players how much fun they had and how great it was to meet the veterans and the other residents… So we’re going to plan in the new year to have a bingo night with the Barrie Colts.”