From the Stands to the Owner's Box
October 28, 2015 | Sports
Inspiration can come in many forms. Joe Perretta and Lina Di Giovanni, long-time EMSB parent volunteers, found it in a group of young hockey players. For Perreta and Di Giovanni, hockey was a favorite pastime; they loved watching the Canadiens on TV, or playing with friends as they are busy running their own companies. That was what they knew, until they attended one of the St-Leonard Arctic’s games in January of last year.
“My cousin invited us to watch his son play hockey,” says Di Giovanni. “He has been playing for so long and we had never gotten a chance to see him play, so we went as a family – our daughter Alexia included – to watch. We haven’t missed a game since.”
The St Leonard Arctic is a junior “AAA” ice hockey team that plays in the Quebec junior AAA Hockey league (LHJQ). The team has struggled in its three-year existence, winning only 26 of 104 games over the last two seasons, finishing close to or at the very bottom of the league standings.
“Things weren’t just tough on the ice. There was a serious lack of stability and investment in the team, both financially and emotionally,” says Perretta. “Despite all of these challenges, the group of 17 to 20-year-olds kept pushing forward, travelling with the team to play around the province and witness firsthand the differences between the St-Leonard team and its opponents in terms of equipment, management and handling.”
Perretta and Di Giovanni became true fans of the young athletes. “We fell in love with the hockey players, their parents and the whole idea of teamwork and community,” explains Di Giovanni.
“The determination the players showed despite having inferior equipment was just inspiring to us,” she continued. “Imagine, they have to balance school, part-time jobs and being on the ice five times a week for practice and games. It’s incredible!”
After just a couple of months of being dedicated super fans, Perretta and Di Giovanni decided that the team needed more than just their support in the stands; they needed it at an ownership level. “We bought the team because we believe in the players. We want to give them the chance to play at their full capacity,” says Di Giovanni.
With that, the married couple of almost 25 years have spent over $250,000 to date on the purchase and upgrade of the team. Buying new uniforms, top of the line equipment and proper ice time for practice are some of the numerous improvements they have made since the purchase of the team.
“This isn’t a venture to make money,” explains Perretta. “We know we will probably lose money every year, but this is an opportunity to help your community. We want to give these boys the support they need to succeed, both on the ice and off of it.”
Di Giovanni added, “We are showing our daughter and others that life is not always about what’s in it for ourselves, but it’s important to do good for others. I know it’s going to be a big adventure, but we are very happy and determined to succeed.”