The last time the puck dropped at the Start Talking Cup, no one knew a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic would cancel the next two years for the popular local hockey game which also raises awareness around mental health.
A flagship event for the last six years for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Simcoe County Branch, the Start Talking Cup has been cancelled again due to government restrictions to stop the rise of COVID-19 positive cases.
CMHA manager of resource development Liz Grummett says she was looking forward to getting a sense of normalcy back to the players and hundreds of fans who attend the games each year.
“When we started to plan it back in the fall, we were really hopeful. In hindsight, you may wonder if we should have even bothered, but we just didn't know what was going to happen,” Grummett told BarrieToday.
The Start Talking Cup combines hockey and mental-health awareness by having teams play a regular-season game while also having the CMHA staff and volunteers on hand to discuss mental-health issues and hand out pamphlets with information.
Traditionally, the boys game sees the minor midget 'AAA' Barrie Colts face their rivals, the North Central Predators.
In the girls game, the bantam 'AA' Barrie Sharks have faced different teams over the last few events.
Grummett said the Start Talking Cup has raised approximately $65,000 in its six years, but added it's the awareness and education that's being missed the most.
“We provide education to not just the players, but to parents and coaches and that is a big reason why we do the Start Talking Cup,” she said. “We are thinking of doing that by Zoom this year, but we are waiting to see because we understand how kids are already overwhelmed with online learning. Too much of that can have a negative effect.”
Unlike last year’s competition, Grummett hopes this year’s Start Talking Cup is a postponement and not a cancellation.
“Hopefully, we are talking about this in March and how great it is to be back,” she said. “But we’ll have to wait and see with fingers crossed.”
While the games are not able to happen at the moment, the CMHA is still helping the community. Grummett said over-the-phone communication continues and so are the crucial face-to-face meetings with safety precautions in place.
“Definitely, we are out there and assisting those who need help, and we have seen many needing it during the last two years,” said Grummett.
Anyone needing mental health support can call 705-728-5044.