In support of the annual Santa Showdown, and everything it stands for, Ponoka Composite High School (PCHS) staff, students, as well as fans piled into the arena on Dec. 11 for another year’s festivities.
This year’s game raised $3,605.75 and a few boxes of food. All proceeds and food are donated to the school’s Santa’s Anonymous program. The program has operated at the school for 31 years and works to provide turkeys, food hampers, and children’s gifts to those in need within the community.
Since the inaugural game, 19 years ago, the Santa Showdown has raised more than $20,000. “I thought it would be a good idea to raise money,” said co-ordinator Ron Labrie.
“In the beginning we thought it would be something where we’d have to muster a team together,” said Labrie. During the first years it was mainly hockey players who teamed up for the showdown, but eventually a few non-hockey players ventured onto the ice, which released the floodgates.
“We for sure have more non-hockey players than hockey players. Over the year’s we’ve kind of had to restrict it,” said Labrie. Now, only Grade 12 students are allowed to play.
This year saw 55 students and 14 staff members participate.
Labrie says Santa’s Anonymous runs so smoothly and successfully because everyone realizes the game is held in the spirit of Christmas and fun. “The hockey players check their egos at the door.
“It wasn’t really all about me, it was about everyone. That’s why we had so many kids come out. People wanted to try it for the first time. There was a great atmosphere on the bench,” explained Cole Levesque, who attends PCHS and plays for the Ponoka Stampeders.
Levesque, Jordan Pritchard and Matt Korchinski agreed with Labrie that the Santa Showdown works because it’s for fun and all about the cause.
Levesque said the whole point of the game was to raise money. “It’s a good feeling because you’re giving back to the community in a giving season.”
“It was a great time. It was good to give back, it wasn’t all about winning,” added Korchinski.
However, their positive attitudes didn’t stop the students from beating the staff 30-29, and bragging about it in school. They also won several of the half-time show events, including the tug of war.
“We haven’t won the tug of war for a few years,” said Labrie.
Levesque said scoring this year was satisfying because the staff team had a student goalie. “It was nice to score 30 points on him, rub it in that he switched sides.”
The boys also agreed it was nice to see so many players come out and step out of their comfort zone. “I think it was cool to see everyone give an effort, even though they knew they were going to embarrass themselves in front of a huge crowd,” said Levesque.
“It was also nice to see the girls come out and play and have fun,” he added.
Korchinski said having so many people come out and try the game made many realize how hard it can be. “I think a lot of them gained a new respect for us hockey players.”
The full house and number of volunteers were other elements that added to the festive feeling of the game. “It was nice to have all those volunteers, it made it easier on us,” said Levesque.
With so many people working in the background, providing musical entertainment and manning raffle and 50/50 draws, the boys were able to put on a good show and enjoy themselves.
“(My favorite part was) going on my breakaway and then falling because I finally got the chance to score, and as a goalie that never happens,” said Korchinski.
Pritchard said his favorite part was scoring two goals to tie the game. “My favorite part was probably watching other people play hockey … to give them a chance to play hockey,” said Levesque.
The money and food for the showdown has been sorted with the rest of the Santa’s Anonymous proceeds. Students have already packaged the hampers together and they’ll be handed out the afternoon of Dec. 19.