uOttawa law students break the ice on mental health at Ottawa Law Classic

First-time charity hockey game raises funds and awareness for Do It For Daron

Law students had so much more fun hitting the ice – rather than the books – for the inaugural Ottawa Law Classic charity hockey game held at University of Ottawa’s Minto Sports Complex.

Organizers were expecting to raise more than $10,000 for the D.I.F.D. (Do It For Daron) youth mental health awareness initiative run through the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.

The rookie event, held Saturday night, had students in the common law section of uOttawa’s Faculty of Law face-off against students from the civil law section. Cheering them on from the stands was a large and exuberant crowd of DIFD scarf-wearing friends, family members, classmates and profs. 

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Ottawa Law Classic

It wasn’t exactly – oh, how should I put it – a close game. While the teams seemed relatively well matched in the first period, the civil law team quickly pulled ahead. Way ahead. The final score was eight to one.

To be fair, the civil law students had the advantage of being younger than their competition, since Quebec students can get into their law program directly from CEGEP without an undergraduate degree. Their team also included Frederick Roy, a former American Hockey League player-turned-law student and the son of legendary goaltender Patrick Roy.

Ottawa Law Classic

For the common law team, its biggest asset was its larger physical size.

“But it didn’t matter because they were just so much faster than us,” second-year common law student Jordan Wright told OBJ.social, with fellow co-organizer and teammate Will Roantree, after their team’s crushing defeat.

Despite being tired, sweaty and in need of a post-game beer or two, the pair was already talking about next year’s event, and changes they’d like to make, such as adding female players and getting profs to lace up. Helping them to organize the event were fellow law students Sarah Reich and Natalie Tershakowec, along with the help of at least 20 of their friends. Tershakowec was responsible for the event branding while Reich oversaw the game night operations.

Mona Fortier, Liberal MP for Ottawa-Vanier, took part in the ceremonial puck drop with the dean of the school’s civil law section, Céline Lévesque, and her counterpart from the common law section, Adam Dodek.

Ottawa Law Classic

If it seemed as though the players were wearing their heart on their sleeve, it’s because they were. Each hockey jersey from the common law team had a purple heart on the left shoulder. It’s the symbol of the grassroots movement aimed at getting more youth talking openly about mental health, following the surprising November 2010 suicide of 14-year-old Daron Richardson. DIFD was founded by Richardson’s parents, Stephanie Richardson and Luke Richardson, a former player and assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators and current assistant coach with the New York Islanders.

The number of Ontario teens feeling anxious and depressed has been growing. One-third of Ontario high school students involved in a province-wide survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Heath was found to have moderate to severe symptoms of psychological distress.

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According to a study done a few years back at Yale Law School, a large segment of law students face mental health issues, and most don’t seek help.

Law School is “very difficult,” acknowledged Wright of the intensely competitive, stressful and demanding program. He’s no stranger to the legal profession: his father, Ken Wright, is a commercial litigation lawyer and partner at Ottawa law firm Soloway Wright LLP. 

Added Roantree: “And it’s only going to get tougher. I think what this is all about, more than anything, is building some bonds and relationships that we can rely on for when it does get harder.”

The hockey game sold more than 200 tickets and was backed by an impressive list of business sponsors, including SnapClarity a new app that aims to ease access to mental health therapy for all ages.

Worth special mention is Sarah Lyle Skinner, last heard by OBJ.social singing and playing guitar at the Rockable Hours law concert benefit several months back. She got the game off to a rousing start with her performance of the now gender-neutral national anthem. The recent revision had been the dream of the late Mauril Bélanger, a long-time Ottawa MP and one-time president of uOttawa’s student federation. He passed away in 2016 from ALS.

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