December 12th, 2018

24 Hours of Handlebar Hockey

24 Hour Handlebar Hockey Game brings Fort McMurray together
Mental Health | Prostate Cancer | Real Stories
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 started organizing the Handlebar Hockey 24-Hour Hockey Game in 2017. It came from an idea that I wanted to have a deeper, more meaningful connection with the people in my community and raise awareness around men’s health, something that I have personally struggled with over the years. 
Fort McMurray is in the heart of the Alberta Oil Sands and there is a predominant male population based on the construction and oil and gas industry, which are the economic cornerstones of the region.  During the summer of 2017, my mother came for a visit and after I picked her up at the airport she made a pretty insightful comment when she said, “I forgot how many men live in Fort McMurray.  I was one of two women on the plane and it was full.” It was a reminder of just how significant men’s health awareness could be to the men living and working in and around Fort McMurray. 
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 nicknamed “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 that have been present in the region for the past several years. Many people are struggling mentally, emotionally and financially. Men are struggling mentally, emotionally and financially. In organizing the 24-Hour Handlebar Hockey game I was simply hoping to start discussions about how men and young boys handle health issues and start conversations about how to manage problems in healthy ways.
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.  I decided on a 24- hour hockey game because it represented the daily struggle men experience when dealing with the serious health issues that Movember highlights –prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health issues, and the unfortunate reality that too many men (1 every minute) take their own life because they feel they have no other options. We wanted our 24-hours of hockey and the struggle we knew we would experience playing it to be symbolic and acknowledge the daily, 24-hour struggle that too many men live day in, day out.
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 our 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 six minor hockey teams with over 100 minor hockey players playing exhibition games so we can share our message with young men and boys. 
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. Movember 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.