Toque Tuesday helps homeless in Surrey the Canadian way, eh

SURREY — Clutching an old wooden Peter Stastny hockey stick, Tim Baillie peers out from beneath a grey toque, unsure whether the question was a joke. Then he breaks into laughter.

"Street hockey," says the self-proclaimed Hockey Day Supreme Commander. "No more complicated than that."

In a nutshell, that’s what the fourth annual Toque Tuesday in Surrey is all about, as on Feb. 3 more than a dozen teams will come down to city hall and play Canada’s favourite childhood game. But as in previous years, there’s also a good excuse to stickhandle your way out of work and come downtown to play a little hockey.

"It’s about having fun with a very serious subject," explains Baillie, a retired firefighter and president of the Surrey Food Bank.

The money raised from the event will go toward helping the homeless in Surrey, with proceeds from each Raising the Roof toque going to Lookout Emergency Aid

Society (formerly KEYS), Surrey Urban Mission and Pacific Community Resources Society.

Baillie says it was his work as a firefighter that first gave him a "different view" of poverty.

He says it’s often firefighters who get to see inside the private lives of people that reveal serious issues hidden away from the public eye.

"You might look at a house and it might look like all’s well. You go inside and there’s no furniture, there’s hardly any food in the fridge."

Those experiences propelled Baillie to become involved in charity work and help change the poverty he was seeing on a daily basis.

When he first heard about Toque Tuesday four years ago, he wanted to find a way to participate in a fun way.

"We’re in Canada and Canadians play hockey. So it just started over at Chuck Bailey (recreation centre) as a bunch of shinny."

The event was almost an immediate success. Hockey enthusiasts, homeless outreach workers and politicians alike turn out to play 20 minute games of four on four, refereed by "Supreme Commander" Baillie who wears a large military-style overcoat his son purchased for him in Russia.

The jacket will no doubt make an early appearance during the event.

"It comes off and on while I’m – I wouldn’t say harassing the participants but while I’m interacting with the participants," he says while pretending to make a threatening gesture.

Dressing up can be half the fun. Baillie said one year Shayne Williams, then of South Fraser Community Services, perfectly matched the appearance of one of the Hanson brothers from the 1977 cult film Slapshot.

So, what do you need to attend the event? Not much, says Baillie. If you don’t have a hockey stick there’s sure to be one lying around somewhere. All you have to do is buy a Raising The Roof toque for $10 (socks are also available) and be willing to accept that Baillie can and will "interact" with your game in ways that may seem unsportsmanlike.

But that’s part of the reason people come out.

"I think it’s really refreshing for people to have some fun," says Baillie. "Homelessness is an incredibly serious issue and I’ve done a lot of charity stuff and sometimes it can really start to be depressing. So every now and then you need to have some fun."

To get in on the action you can contact the Supreme Commander at or 604 762-6061.

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