The Nelson Leafs prides itself on being more than just a Junior B Hockey Club.
Which is why the Nelson executive quickly jumped at the idea suggested by head coach Mario DiBella to assist in raising Autism Spectrum Disorder awareness during Leafs regular season home games in February.
“The hockey club thinks it’s important for the team to be role models within the community so when Mario approached to the board with the Leafs running an awareness campaign for Autism, we thought it the best thing to do,” said Leaf vice-president Corey Viala.
Viala said beginning Friday, February 2, when Nelson hosts Columbia Valley Rockies in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action, fans will notice as new look when the Leafs take to the ice for the first period puck drop.
“Thanks to Remedy’s in Nelson, we’ve decided to go with different jerseys in support for people in the autism spectrum,” Viala explained.
“We will be wearing these jerseys for our (five) home games we have in February.”
Viala said the Leafs reached out to the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL, who have their Canucks Autism Network. The organization, founded in 2008 by Vancouver Canucks Co- owners, Paolo and Clara Aquilini, donated a player-signed Canuck jersey to be raffled off, with the winner announced during the second-period intermission of the Saturday, February 10th contest against rival Castlegar Rebels.
“As soon as the Canucks found out, they emailed me to say they have a signed jersey for us to use to help promote Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Viala said.
Viala said to be entered into the draw is easy.
The entrant must attend each of the five games, where at the main entrance the fan will be given a form to fill out and present to the West Kootenay Chapter Okanagan Centre of Autism table located in the concourse at the NDCC Arena.
“The boys are really excited to be part of this awareness program,” Viala said.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviours.
According to the AutsimBC, as of March 2014, 1 in 68 children have been identified as having ASD with it being 4.5 times more common in boys (1 in 42) than in girls (1 in 189).
Nelson Leafs currently sit first overall in the Murdoch Division of the KIJHL, four points ahead of Castlegar Rebels.
The Leafs have seven games remaining in the regular season, including five home games during the next two weeks.
Nelson plays Castlegar three times, Beaver Valley, Spokane and Grand Forks, each once as well as Columbia Valley Rockies.