'It saved days and days of work': Hay River hockey players praised for helping flood victims

·2 min read
Jeff Boyce, the president of the Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey Club, said the league started helping out members whose homes had flooded, but expanded into helping an entire street.  (Loren McGinnis/ CBC - image credit)
Jeff Boyce, the president of the Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey Club, said the league started helping out members whose homes had flooded, but expanded into helping an entire street. (Loren McGinnis/ CBC - image credit)

When Mitchell Touesnard returned to his flooded home in Hay River, N.W.T., he discovered a damaged basement that was going to turn into a big cleanup job.

But with a supportive community like Hay River, the only tools he needed to get the job done were some Rusty Blades.

The Hay River Rusty Blades Old Timers Hockey club stepped up to help victims whose homes were affected when the town of almost 4,000 people were ordered to evacuate in the middle of the night earlier this month.

"It saved days and days of work," Touesnard said of the help the hockey players provided.

"They were absolutely amazing."

Members of the Rusty Blades were on Cranberry Crescent, going home-to-home shortly after the community could return. While there, they tore up floors, drywall and aired out the water damage.

Loren McGinnis/ CBC
Loren McGinnis/ CBC

Jeff Boyce is the president of the Rusty Blades, and one of those helping the community.

He told Loren McGinnis, host of CBC's The Trailbreaker, that the mission started as a way to help members of the league whose homes were affected, but expanded into helping the wider community.

A mass email to the league produced about 18 players — one third of the league — on the very first day.

The team includes a plumber, a carpenter and some engineers.

"We know all these people, they all live in our community," Boyce said.

"We just kind of made a plan to do what we could do."

Touesnard lived in Halifax when Hurricane Juan hit in 2003. That massive storm left widespread damage and required a community effort to repair. But he said the way Hay River came together after the flooding outdid that response.

Dressing room seven

Boyce said although it was difficult to see his community so damaged, he and his fellow league members enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time together.

"We had quiet a few laughs, quiet a few giggles, had a couple cocktails after work," he said.

Looking back at a favourite memory from the experience, Boyce said the first house they worked on had a wood stove in the garage. Later in the week, that garage became an impromptu hangout area for the hockey-players-turned-demolishers.

The garage became known as dressing room seven, a reference to the fact the team uses dressing rooms five and six at the Hay River arena.

Boyce said some of the flood victims had no idea where to begin but were in luck when the Rusty Blades showed up.

"Some of the homeowners, quite literally, were, 'I don't know what to do here,' and I guess we kind of walked them through it."

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