As kids and parents in Cloverdale get ready for another hockey season, they continue to remember and pay tribute to a coach whose voice is no longer heard on the bench.
At the start of last season, Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association announced a number of initiatives to honour Paul Bennett.
Bennett, a married father of two, and an operating-room nurse department manager at Peace Arch Hospital, was shot to death outside his 67A Avenue home on June 23, 2018, in what police consider a case of mistaken identity. His killer is still on the loose.
This week, the results of efforts “to create an enduring legacy of the memory and spirit of our friend and coach” have been made public by the Colts hockey organization, in addition to plans “to continue this work throughout the coming season,” the association said in a news release.
Special “P.B.” helmet stickers have been worn by hundreds of local hockey players, including members of Bennett’s adult hockey teams and those in other associations.
“We also held the first annual Paul Bennett BLAST! Tournament – a celebration of all things hockey – for our Atom players,” Cox noted. “This was a big success in its first incarnation, and we will be expanding this event further this season, as the waitlist was significant.”
“We introduced another 46 kids to the sport we all love,” Cox said. “After that program, we monitored for those players registering for this upcoming season, and we were very pleased to award the inaugural Paul Bennett Love of Hockey Bursaries to two graduates of that program, Alexander Washi and Reid Phillips.”
Cox said the association was thrilled to see support “from many of our members for Paul’s family, especially his son Adam in his first season of hockey after his father passed.”
Vancouver Canucks pitched in to host the Bennett family for a game against Ottawa Senators, Paul’s favourite team.
“We are very grateful for all these efforts to make this season as smooth and enjoyable for Adam, his mom Darlene and his brother Owen,” Cox said.
“At the same time,” she added, “we watched Adam exhibit heart and determination throughout this past season. From tryouts through the final games of the year, we saw him work to make his Dad proud in his first ever season without Paul as his Coach. As a result, Adam was voted by the membership to be our ‘Most Inspiring Player’ for the 2018-2019 season.”
Our Colts players are proud to wear these ‘PB’ stickers this season in celebration of the life and positive spirit of Coach Paul Bennett. Those wearing a sticker are also invited to donate towards our new Paul Bennett ‘Love of Hockey’ Bursary. pic.twitter.com/QoBNhm9IFM
— Cloverdale MHA (@CloverdaleMHA) November 4, 2018
Over the summer, the association sponsored a hole and participated in the inaugural Paul Bennett Memorial Golf Tournament. That event raised an additional $4,000 for the bursary fund, in addition to funds for Peace Arch Hospital and a RCMP-administered fund for victims of crime.
This season, the Canucks have become title sponsor of the First Shift program.
“We are also excited to continue to see more and more kids come into the game, including many new Canadians, and we hope to continue to grow our association and spread the love of hockey in Paul’s name,” Cox said. “We have already had to add teams to many divisions this season, and registration is ongoing for kids aged five to 12.”