As the bell rings for recess at Oakville School, Grades 1 to 3 students hustle to their gymnasium in anticipation of reconnecting with their Canadian Roots.
Ten teams of 6 to 9-year-olds are participating in intramural mini sticks at Oakville for the next couple of weeks as the school comes together to enjoy a hockey tradition dating back generations.
Principal Mark Sokolowski says seeing the energy in the gym during mini sticks warms his heart during some cold winter days.
"It's electric. It really is electric. The little ones who aren't playing will come in and sit on the benches to watch, and someone scores, and the whole gym cheers. It's a special event to witness as a principal because it's electric in there."
Four teams take to the gym each recess, and while no one officially keeps score, the crowd of kids watching would tell you there is a lot of pride on the line to show off in front of peers.
Sokolowski adds that he is proud to see the students play together, enjoying themselves and each other in a safe and inclusive way.
"I remember lacing up my skates in the freezing cold on the benches and those outdoor rinks and skating until my legs gave out. It brings back a lot of good memories from my past, seeing them play mini sticks, street hockey, shinny games, pick up games, things like that are certainly part of our Canadian culture."
Physical education teacher Cam Scott tells PortageOnline that he has been hosting intramural mini sticks for students for the past ten years, and it never gets old.
Oakville School students enjoying some intramural mini-sticks hockey 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0ooJm1w2s3— PortageOnline (@PortageOnline_) January 31, 2024
"The kids just enjoy being out there and being with their friends and their buddies. It doesn't matter if you're a great athlete or not, because anybody can knock that ball around and play."
Although the weather may be unseasonably warm for this time of year, the physical education teacher notes that he tries to plan the mini stick unit for January and February, as they are usually the coldest months and often, the kids can not go out when the temperatures drop.
"They get to burn off some of that energy from the classroom, and it's a good time for them to come down and do that. If they're not scheduled to play a game at a recess break, then they can come down and watch and add to the excitement."
While things get competitive, Scott ensures that sportsmanship is top of mind for all students taking part before heading back to the classroom.
"At the end of every game, we get them to line up, and they do a fist bump, and that just creates good sportsmanship. I think that's important. We don't do that enough in sports outside of school. I'd like to maybe see that happen a little bit more, but we do it for intramurals, and the kids can come away happy if they lose or happy if they win, that's what's most important, just being there for the game, not for the result."
Wyatt, a Grade 2 student who loves playing mini sticks, says being a goalie and stopping the other teams is his favourite part of participating in the Canadian tradition.
"Well, whenever I block it, I drop it and then I shoot it up. And one time when I dropped it, the person I passed to went in and scored," he smiled.