24 Hour Handlebar Hockey Game brings Fort McMurray together

Author: Movember
My name is Clinton Bretecher. I'm originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, but I've called Fort McMurray, Alberta, my home for over 10 years now.

I'm not sure exactly how the concept of the 24 Hour Handlebar Hockey Game came to be. I knew that I wanted my Move to be something that I was passionate about, something the community of Fort McMurray could rally around and something that would be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Something that would give people a sense of purpose and accomplishment once it was over.

The game is being played in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Friday, November 17th, 2017, with puck drop set for 7:30 pm at the Casman Centre, home of the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League) Fort McMurray Oil Barons. The game runs for a full 24 hours and is going to consist of 68 skater, 100 local minor hockey players and many volunteers to make it an awesome, awareness raising, event for everyone involved. 

My Mo(tivation)
Fort McMurray is in the heart of the Alberta Oil Sands with our economy heavily relying on construction and the oil and gas industry.  We also have an incredibly high male population on a per capita basis due to the Alberta Oil Sands.  A few weeks ago my mother came for a visit and when I picked her up at the airport she said, “I forgot how many men live in Fort McMurray.  I was one of two women on the plane and it was full.” Over the past few years, depressed oil prices have led to lower income and reduced wages across the board, to Alberta’s highest unemployment rate in decades, it has drastically lowered housing prices and increased foreclosure rates. This has given rise to substance abuse and suicide rates. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it did.

On May 3rd, 2016, all 88,000 residents in Fort McMurray were in a state of emergency and ordered to evacuate due to a raging wildfire named The Beast.  It destroyed over 2,500 homes and changed my perspective on life. At the time, my daughter Chloe was 10 weeks old and we had to take her to a pediatrician in Calgary for her 3 month immunization shots. It was at that appointment and through a series of follow up appointments with specialists at the Calgary Children’s Hospital that we found out Chloe was born blind. She has a rare disease known as Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH) where she was born with smaller diameter and fewer optic nerves than normal. The stress of enduring the evacuation, being away from our home and receiving this news bent our family but it didn’t break us. If anything, once we were able to talk through everything and understand what ONH was, our family became that much stronger. We knew that we could, and would, get through anything together. Not everyone has been as fortunate as my family and I after the wildfire and through the tough economic times. Many people are struggling mentally, emotionally and financially. Men are struggling mentally, emotionally and financially. In organizing the 24 Hour Handlebar Hockey game I am simply hoping that it starts discussions about how men and young boys handle their struggles and talk about how they deal with problems in a healthy manner.

One of the aspects of the event that I am very excited about is Alberta Health Services, the Canadian Mental Health Association and SomeOtherSolutions (SOS – a local, suicide prevention organization) have all agreed to have representatives and resources at the event to share with players, volunteers and spectators. People will be there to support tour cause but at the same time might be swayed into seeking help if they know what types of resources that are out there. We are also working with the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey and will have 6 minor hockey teams with over 100 minor hockey players playing exhibition games so we can share our message with young men and boys, kind of a “grassroots” initiative that I know is very close to the Movember Foundation. 

Personally, I have had some events happen in my life that has had a heavy impact on me. I lost my father, who was my absolute best friend, when I was 15 years old. I went through years of depression, anger and anxiety when I lost him and it took years of working with a therapist to help me make sense of my loss and learn how to manage personal problems and challenges in a healthy and productive manner. While this is the first time I have even gotten involved with Movember it has been a part of who I am and how I live my life for a long time. That being said, as much as I personally connect with Movember I am genuinely doing this for the people of Fort McMurray and for the men, young boys and families that are impacted by issues around men’s health.