Rich Moccia, left, and James Lally

U of G has already exceeded its United Way goal this year by raising nearly $513,000. But don’t put away your cheque book yet, say Rich Moccia, associate vice-president (research) and James Lally, a researcher in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. They want to see that final tally grow by a couple more thousand dollars via their annual United Way hockey challenge on Sunday, Dec. 12, from 2 to 6 p.m. And they are looking for a few more hockey players to help them make it happen.

For the past three years, Moccia and Lally have organized a four-hour pick-up hockey marathon at U of G’s twin-pad arena as a United Way fundraiser. The event involves 30 faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends in four 50-minute games and a skills competition (fastest skater, shooting accuracy and breakaways). They need 10 more players this year.

Participants each contribute $80 to cover ice time, the skills competition, food and beverages, and a commemorative hockey jersey. All participants receive a charitable tax receipt for part of the cost.

Best of all, says Moccia, they get to play back-to-back games and leave feeling pretty darn good about helping out a good cause. “It’s pond hockey, so no rules, no referees, no fighting, just lots of laughter and skating. We’re all Canadians, we all love hockey, and we’re raising money for a good cause — what a great opportunity.”

The endurance aspect is what makes the event unique, adds Lally. “There is a novelty to playing four hours straight. The fourth hour is the great equalizer; no matter what your skill level, everyone has heavy legs at the end of the day.”

The hockey marathon started as a cancer fundraiser headed by Lally. “It was a lot of fun and a great success,” he says, adding that when they decided to do it annually, it just naturally evolved into a United Way event. “The University does such a tremendous job of promoting fundraising; there is a real sense of community, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Both he and Moccia acknowledge the repeated support of a core of U of G players. “We’ve had number of people who come out every year, including some displaced Guelphites now living in London and Kingston,” Lally says. “Of course, it’s the players that ultimately make the event, and we’ve been fortunate to have a great group.”

Moccia adds: “Last year we had two sisters come out and play who were former Gryphon varsity hockey players.” The group usually includes a couple of father-son duos, including Moccia and his son, Scott, a 2008 U of G engineering graduate and a business and projects analyst for the Ontario Veterinary College.

Players range in skill and in age from late teens to mid-50s. Most participants also volunteer around Guelph with shelters, food banks and other agencies receiving United Way Support. “So organizing the event to support the United Way was an easy choice,” Moccia says.

The hockey challenge is supported by the Department of Athletics, Gryphs Sports Lounge and The Hockey Shop-Source for Sports. Registration for the final 10 spots will be on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information or to register, email jlally@uoguelph.