Over 1,100 teams across BC and the Yukon taped their sticks green last weekend in support of Buddy Check for Jesse and to create awareness around mental health.

In partnership with Buddy Check for Jesse, BC Hockey distributed 1,100 packages to all member Pee Wee and Bantam teams. The package included:

  • A package of six (6) rolls of green stick tape
  • A package of 20 wristbands
  • Wallet cards
  • Printed materials including posters and coaches talk
  • Stickers

All BC Hockey Pee Wee and Bantam teams, BC Hockey Zone Program teams and all South Island Minor Hockey Association (MHA) teams received a Buddy Check for Jesse package this season. This included 114 Associations and 49 Zone teams.

Numerous other teams around the province and in other provinces downloaded resources from the website and participated in the program.

The initiative, now in it's second year, started over three (3) years ago by Dr. Stu Gershman in memory of his son Jesse Short-Gershman, aims to raise awareness about mental illness/challenges throughout the youth hockey community.

The weekend includes coaches delivering a "presentation" to their team that aims to normalize and destigmatize mental health challenges. The program resources include a sample coaches letter and many coaches relay their own experiences to their players. Coaches have a unique role and typically command respect and carry a lot of responsibility. They are looked up to by the players and the dressing room is a special place where kids feel safe and listen to their coaches instruction.

Many teams took to social media over the weekend sharing pictures and videos of their support for Buddy Check for Jesse. Check out Instagram for a gallery of posts using the hashtag #BuddyCheckforJesse and follow the Buddy Check for Jesse account .
The Major Midget League (MML) South Island Royals hosted the Kootenay Ice on the weekend and all the players taped their sticks and wore green laces.
At the Minor Midget League (MML15) game between the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds and Vancouver North East Chiefs, the teams not only taped their sticks and wore green laces, they made the game an event. In addition to the tape and laces, all the players wore green jerseys for the warm-up.

Prior to the start of the game, the players lined up on the goal line facing the jumbotron as a letter was read to the crowd regarding what the game was going to be about. The Buddy for Check video (see below) was played for everyone, then the players alternated at centre circle for the National anthem. Players then shook hands, returned to their bench to put their game jerseys on.

"By talking to our players about this, sharing stories, educating our team and letting them know that we care and support one another, we want individuals to know that their family extends into the locker room and that we all care deeply for one another," said Thunderbirds General Manager, Darrin Ponak. "Nobody should feel that they have to keep this hidden or do something drastic because nobody cared. We try to make each one of our players feel like a valued and important part of our team."
For some of the Thunderbirds family, this initiative hits home as they have been directly connected to the loss of a loved one within the past few years.

"When we read the letter supplied in the package, the room was silent. Everyone in the room at some point in their life has been able to connect with someone they've known that has experienced a loss," added Ponak. "Not only did this provide a good opportunity for a time to understand, but it was a good time to reflect and remember."

Dr. Gershman and his support team have been overwhelmed by the response this past week. "The outpouring of gratitude by coaches, parents and players has been phenomenal," he said. "Many players and parents have indicated that they now have a platform to base open discussions on. A number of players have reached out about their own struggles and feel confident that they won't be judged negatively. This has given them some strength to move forward in their life."

Dr. Gershman hopes that the conversation will continue to break down barriers. "I am honoured that Jesse's legacy is one of helping others to reach out and receive the support that they deserve."

Have the courage to speak up and get help for a friend/teammate or for yourself. It's the hardest thing to do, but it's also the single most important step you can take. Speak to a teammate, friend, coach, manager, a doctor, a mental health professional, a family member, a helpline - anyone you trust.

Remember: there are people who are ready to listen and to help. And if you know someone who may need help, remember that you could be in their shoes. Don't bully or stigmatize them - have a heart. The more you understand, the easier it is to have empathy. Learn about your teammate, friend or family members' challenges. Go online. There are a lot of resources to help you.

CLICK HERE for resources where you can get help.

For more information on Buddy Check for Jesse, please visit their website .
6671 Oldfield Rd.
Saanichton, BC V8M 2A1