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Indigenous hockey team helping at-risk kids thrive in Australia

In January 2020, the Kaurna Boomerangs, an Aboriginal ice hockey team from Adelaide, Australia, embarked on an eye-opening journey to Northern Alberta, Canada. Battling extreme temperature shifts and cultural differences, this trip marked a significant leap for the young Boomerangs, a team thriving under the Ice Factor ice hockey program initiated by Marie Shaw in 2005. The trip aimed to foster intercultural exchange and enable the Boomerangs to compete against other indigenous teams.

Fast forward to 2023, as the NHL graces Melbourne, Australia, for the inaugural 2023 NHL Global Series, featuring the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings at Rod Laver Arena. The Kaurna Boomerangs have flourished into a program that has positively impacted at-risk youth, providing them an outlet through ice hockey and imparting life skills and values beyond the rink. The Boomerangs' journey has been supported by various initiatives, including NHLPA Goals & Dreams equipment donations, showcasing the power of hockey to transform lives.

The Ice Factor program, an inspiration drawn from the movie "The Mighty Ducks," has become a beacon of hope for disadvantaged youth in Australia. Marie Shaw's vision is not only about hockey but primarily about providing young people with a sense of belonging, discipline, and the opportunity to believe in themselves. The Kaurna Boomerangs, born out of this vision, represent the triumph of resilience, community, and the potential for sport to drive positive change. The program aims to continue expanding, touching the lives of many more young individuals and steering them toward a brighter, more promising future. The genesis of the Ice Factor program can be traced back to Marie Shaw's determination to rescue the sole ice arena in South Australia, teetering on the brink of closure in 2005. Recognizing the transformative potential of hockey, Shaw decided to channel the facility's daytime underutilization into a conduit for the community's betterment. Initially starting with the Reapers, a team named by the first cohort, the program blossomed into a multifaceted initiative aiming to instil essential life values and skills in youngsters who often faced socio-economic challenges.

The Kaurna Boomerangs, a groundbreaking endeavour within the Ice Factor program, emerged in 2017. This pioneering all-Indigenous ice hockey team became a beacon of hope, providing a unique pathway for Aboriginal youth to thrive, both on and off the ice. The emphasis was not merely on hockey but on education, encouraging players to attend school, maintain good grades, and nurture their personal growth. It’s a testament to the program's success that it has saved countless young lives, offering opportunities for internships and paving the way for a better, more promising future.

As the NHL graces Australia once again for the 2023 NHL Global Series, the partnership with the Kaurna Boomerangs underscores the international appeal and transformative power of hockey. The camaraderie, mutual respect, and shared cultural experiences exchanged between the Boomerangs and NHL players highlight the profound impact of the sport in bridging communities and fostering a global hockey family. This collaboration reinforces the belief that hockey is not just a game; it is a vehicle for empowerment, uniting diverse backgrounds and transcending borders.

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