Of all the equipment that keeps minor hockey running along in Hay River, there is something that might not be so obvious.
It’s not skates, hockey sticks, the time clock nor even the arena itself.
It’s a lowly bin – four of them to be exact.
They are the bins in which members of the public can drop their recyclable bottles and cans to support the cause of minor hockey.
“It’s very important,” said Pennie Pokiak, the president of Hay River Minor Hockey, of the recyclable collection. “It’s helped us not to raise our fees.”
Pokiak explained that the association’s fees have not increased in maybe 10 years, even though ice fees have gone up five per cent annually over the last three years.
But Minor Hockey has not passed that extra cost onto membership because of the fundraising from the collection bins, and the related bottle drives twice each year in March and October.
“It’s because we do the fundraising through our bottle drives and our recycling that we have a cushion where we don’t have to pass on those costs,” Pokiak said.
She estimated thousands of dollars are raised each year from recyclables.
“It’s our main form of fundraising,” she explained, adding it has been taking place for many years.
Hay River Minor Hockey has its collection bins at The Rooster convenience store, the arena and two grocery stores – Super A and the Northern.
Because of the constant flow of recyclables, the bins have to be checked regularly by someone, probably every second or third day.
“The last couple of years it’s actually been the midget division. That’s kind of been their commitment,” said Pokiak. “So instead of them having to do the bottle drives or other fundraisers, they split it up depending on the amount of kids. They split it up so everybody does a couple of weeks at a time.”
The rest of the organization takes care of the bottle drives.
“So it’s been working,” said Pokiak. “We’ve had enough midgets where they take two weeks at a time.”
Community residents can also donate their recyclables in another way.
“At the bottle depot itself, people drop off their recyclables and Minor Hockey has an account there,” Pokiak explained. “So they can drop them off and just say, ‘This is for Minor Hockey.'”
The bottle depot keeps track of the donations and every once in a while sends Minor Hockey a cheque.
Other groups sometimes also get a share of the recyclable funding.
“The norm is that Minor Hockey does it all year round,” said Pokiak.
However, for the last two summers, the Minor Hockey collection effort has been running with fewer people because not as many are interested in the off-season.
“This summer, we had the Girl Guides pick up the recyclables from the bins,” said Pokiak. “They took the money. So they just went to the bins every couple of days and changed the bags and hauled the recyclables away.”
Plus, the graduating class at Diamond Jenness Secondary School were helped out in the spring when the hockey season ended two months early because of the arena being closed.
“No one would come out and do a bottle drive, which is understandable,” said Pokiak. “So we actually gave it to the grad class.”
Teams that are part of Hay River Minor Hockey don’t fundraise by team.
“We fundraise for the entire association, so everything basically goes into one pot,” said Pokiak, adding the money pays for such things as jerseys, pucks, water bottles, pylons and more, along with team registration fees for tournaments.
Parents and players are responsible for an individual’s equipment.
“We do, in every division, have some spare equipment for kids that don’t have equipment,” Pokiak noted.
The association president believes people donate recyclables for different reasons, but the recycling aspect is most important for many.
For others, the donation part is most important, including some people who collect recyclables at home and then drop them off to executive members of Hay River Minor Hockey.