Shuraim Master’s eighth birthday couldn’t come fast enough.
For the last two years, he has been yearning to participate in the 54 Division Pro Action Hockey League for young people in the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park area.
He desperately wanted to join with many of his friends are in the league that’s in its ninth year sponsored by ProAction Cops & Kids, which funds programs that connect officers with kids.
“He’s a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and he loves the sport,” said Master’s mom. “In fact, he aspires to be a professional player.”
Not surprisingly, his favourite player is Leafs centreman Auston Matthews.
“I love the way he plays and I want to be like him one day,” said the Grenoble Public School student.
The league, which provides free hockey and equipment to young people, kicked off on January 14 at Angela James Arena.
Mehar Qaisar enrolled her daughters, Mifrah and Elisah, in the program.
“I heard it’s a very good program and I wanted my kids to be part of it,” said Qaisar, who migrated from Pakistan six years ago. “Having cops and young people interact in an environment like this, I feel, is very good.”
She also has a seven-year-old son she will enroll next year.
Gateway Public School Grade Three student Abdullah Desai is also a first-timer.
“He likes hockey, so I think this is a program he will really enjoy,” said his dad, Khalil Desai.
Neighbourhood Officers from 54 Division conduct a 10-week hockey school program, starting in October, before the start of the 15-week organized season that ends in April.
“This is a big day for the kids,” said Constable David Besco, who joined the program four years ago. “It’s great to see the enthusiasm.”
Starting with 64 kids, the program has evolved to include 140 young people between eight and 11. They compete in two age categories and there are four teams per age group.
Sergeant Bradley Relph was on hand for the opening ceremonies.
“The most exciting thing about this is for the kids to get on the ice with our officers and have some fun,” he said. “Most of them and their families already know the neighbourhood officers who work in their communities. They, however, get to see them in a different light on the ice.”