The Sudbury Playground Hockey League is a little different than most organized hockey clubs.
Looking around for words, the club president called it “grassroots hockey.”
“Somebody freezes a piece of ground outside, and kids come to play on it,” said Tom Watkins.
Aspiring athletes and kids who simply like to skate come out to practise, even if it means skating on an outdoor rink, no matter the temperature or the conditions. They do it for a love of the game.
Since its inception in 1952, the club has given many greats like Mike Foligno their starts. After all, it was the first organized hockey club in the city.
Now, 61 years later, it has evolved to a recreational league where kids play in the comfort of arenas, but the fundamental principles of the club haven't changed.
It's meant to give everyone the opportunity to play, no matter their skill level, or how much they can afford to spend on the season. Registration is half to one-third of the cost of other leagues in the city, and players hit the ice on weekends only, Watkins said.
Teams are made up geographically, with kids from communities playing kids from other parts of Sudbury.
For the fourth year in a row, the club partnered with Greater Sudbury Police Services for the Police Cup tournament. The annual event is a highlight for kids, giving them the chance to show just how much their skills progressed over the season.
Watkins said the police service came on board when the Mayor's Cup dissolved.
“The police are involved in helping fundraise for the tournament, to make it happen,” Watkins said.
It fits in well with GSPS mandate to service the community they're part of. Sgt. Anita Punkkinen was at Countryside Arena Jan. 20, watching her kids play.
“It's the only tournament they have,” she said. “It's a fun, fair-play league.”
She especially appreciates the sense of community the league exhibits, and feels it fits in well with police outreach initiatives.
“The SPHL does an excellent job running it,” she said.
For more information about the hockey club, visit www.sphl.org.