To many people, hockey means the NHL, but Scott Godfrey of the Autism Aspergers Friendship Society of Calgary (AAFS) is trying to show the kids that it means more than that.
Godfrey has reached out to non-pro teams from all over North America, especially the teams in and around Calgary, in an attempt to get them involved with AAFS.
“They know the Flames and they know the Leafs, and they know the Hitmen,” Godfrey explained in a recent interview.
“But we started looking at opportunities to increase their knowledge of the hockey community and hockey.”
He started to write to different teams because he wanted the kids to see that there was more to the game than the NHL and the Saddledome.
Godfrey really started to believe in the partnerships when some players from the Columbia Valley Rockies came out and one of the AAFS members told Godfrey, “I never thought I’d meet a real live hockey player. Today is a great day.”
The number of teams and hockey players involved in AAFS has only grown since Godfrey first reached out. One of the teams responding was the SAIT Trojans men’s team.
On Jan. 5, a couple members of the AAFS went to SAIT to watch the Trojans play the MacEwan University Griffins.
One of members who attended the game, Bryce Ripley, asked if he could take a photo with SAIT goaltenders Payton Lee and Jordan Cartney.
After the photo Lee gave the AAFS member, who plays goal in floor hockey, his old helmet, from Lee’s days with the Kootenay Ice.
During the ride home Ripley said to Godfrey, “I can’t believe he did that. This is so cool.”
Lee explained that he noticed how excited the youngster was to meet him and Cartney.
“To just see the smile on his face was pretty special,” Lee said.
The Trojans, including Lee, had noticed the AAFS members during warm up before the game.
“It was really good to have their support,” Lee explained.
“I think they make our day as much as we made theirs.”
The Calgary Canucks are another local junior hockey team that has gotten involved with AAFS, often hanging out with the group during parkour night and club house night, as well as inviting the AAFS to games and into the locker room for autographs post-game.
During a game once, one of the Canuck defensemen, Scott Nicholson, noticed the AAFS kids watching from the stands right before a faceoff, and winked and nodded at them.
“Our guys went ballistic,” said Godfrey.
To just see the smile on his face was pretty special. – Payton Lee
Local teams aren’t the only teams to get involved with AAFS.
Godfrey has had teams from all over North American send jerseys, hats and other hockey related items to the group.
“If you give people a chance, they will care,” said Godfrey.