View Program!
Drag Me!
Click Me!

NHL All-Star Magic: Inside the House of Hockey

April 2, 2024

NHL All-Star came back to the epicenter of the hockey universe, Toronto. A city that boasts “Original 6 history” with the Maple Leaf Gardens, hockey royalty in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a team in the Maple Leafs that has fans well beyond Yonge St - all around the country and even beyond. 

NHL All-Stars are creating magic on the ice all the time, just as they did at Scotiabank Arena on Feb 2nd-3rd, but where the magic truly happens is a few blocks away at 259 Jarvis Street - MLSE LaunchPad. 

The community-centric hub focuses on delivering programs that meet youth needs - and for NHL All-Star week, MLSE LaunchPad transformed into the “House of Hockey.” For eight days, 17 events set out to reach thousands of youth with diverse and inclusive programming. It inspired the next generation to fall in love with the game and impacted the community in major ways.

Ice hockey is an expensive sport with several socioeconomic barriers preventing participation. Many potential players/fans are priced out of taking an interest in hockey, and turn to another sport - or worse, none at all. The benefits of sport are far too great to let external factors deter youth participation. House of Hockey and MLSE LaunchPad exist to eradicate those barriers and grow the game for youth of all backgrounds.

I was on a collision course with sports myself. It all started how most typical hockey fandom in Canada does: Hockey Night in Canada. I don't know how it happened, my family weren't big sports fans, they had just immigrated to Canada in 2000 and I was born in 2002. One night, when my memory started to begin, Hockey Night in Canada happened to be on our cubed TV at 7PM and the rest was history. My parents were probably watching 22 minutes or the news at 6PM and the programming just leaked over. I’m so grateful that it did.

I was hooked from the start, falling in love with the white and blue Maple Leaf. It looked so cool. I loved when the Leafs scored, lights would flash and the scoreboard would change. There was no doubt about it; hockey was for me. It became my passion.

As someone born with muscular dystrophy, being wheelchair bound and growing up in the vibrant but infamous Jane and Finch community, I couldn't play ice hockey even if I could afford it. That didn't stop me from experiencing sport and building memories of a lifetime. One day at recess during elementary school, I saw a couple of kids playing ball hockey. I asked where they got their sticks (Dollarama), I persuaded my parents to buy me one, and the rest is history. I would bring my stick to and from school every day to play hockey, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own. We'd play outside, or in the hallway of a legendary "Room 107", using the stairwell double doors as a net. The handle was the crossbar. It was magical.

Like the youth currently involved in MLSE LaunchPad’s House of Hockey ball hockey programming, I could experience the game that I loved through this accessible form and it played a huge part in positively shaping my childhood.

Having that touchpoint to play the sport reinforced what I saw my heroes in Blue and White do on the television, and my love for hockey and ultimately sport grew. I'm not sure I'd be the same passionate, energetic person I am today without sport. I owe a lot of my lifestyle, values, and attitudes to sport and the game of hockey, which has provided many real-time mental, physical, and social health benefits to me and has made a huge imprint on who I am.

It’s fantastic that the youth at MLSE LaunchPad are given a platform dedicated to building foundational memories at an important time in their lives. Throughout the eight-day transformation of House of Hockey to celebrate NHL All-Star, I loved seeing youth of all genders and backgrounds shouting and shrieking in joy while immersing themselves in the festivities, looking at their friends deciding what adventure to undertake next. For them, House of Hockey also became the House of Dreams. It brought back memories of playing ball hockey with friends when I was in grade school. Hockey may have been solely on their enthused minds, but the impact goes far beyond. This is the aforementioned magic of the game that is enabled by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and the rest of the Maple Leafs each time they step onto the ice and build their incredible story. This is why sport matters; the impact it has is exponential, both in real-time and down the road.

Along with the many ball hockey sessions, themed programming was also made sure to represent growing forms of the game, such as Empower Her - partnering with the newly-emerged PWHL to inspire young girls in hockey, Blind Hockey and Volt Hockey Canada showcased how the game can adapt for people of all abilities. Hockey is the best sport in the world – and it’s made for absolutely everybody.

House of Hockey at LaunchPad also made sure to take a holistic, inclusive approach to hockey that went beyond playing. Specialized programming throughout the week delved into the spaces in hockey behind the scenes, allowing youth and young professionals to combine their skills with their passion, such as the Maple Leafs Design-A-Thon, where tech-savvy youth get to strut their graphic design skills and apply it to their favourite team. Relevant influencers and industry professionals helped inspire the leaders of tomorrow. As a marketing student myself, seeing diverse youth realize that their passion and skills could collide in a career was important to me.


While providing accessibility to sport may seem like a rather simple strategy to employ, the benefits and overall results of doing so are exponential and often overlooked in importance. Sport comprises an ecosystem of co-creation such as from fans and players, professionals and amateurs, and more stakeholders alike and within it is critical to feed and grow the grassroots level of sport.

House of Hockey at LaunchPad did just that, by taking the most star-studded week in hockey and bringing it to everyday kids in the GTA. The impact of planning and executing excellent, grassroots sport programs is about more than just a game. More than just sports. It’s about building community and bringing people together. A fabric of belonging, an aroma of hopes and dreams, a stable common ground in an increasingly fragmented, technological world.

It’s Hockey. And if you ask me, there's something magical about that.

All Stories