2 former Sutherland Cup Champs giving back to the community

Game on: Road hockey kids thrilled as passing police get in the game

When brothers Bently, 9, and Jace Martin, 4, saw police cruisers pull up outside their east-end home, they were afraid they were in trouble for being on the street playing road hockey, their mom says.

But the interaction between the kids and constables Aaron Dartch and Jonathan Sims turned into a very positive experience when the two London police officers unexpectedly asked the kids if they could join them in a game and came back the next day with new gear for the kids, Tiffany Leroux said.

“At first they thought they were getting in trouble for being outside,” she said. “But then they were very excited when they started to play.”

Leroux’s husband captured the moment by taking pictures of the short game on Saturday.

Leroux later shared the images on social media along with a thank you to London police, which has now been shared more than 700 times on Facebook alone.

“I think it was amazing,” Leroux said.

“I think kids should have that kind of positive relationship with people that are there to protect, feel they can approach a police officer and not be in fear.”

Dartch and Sims, who grew up playing hockey, were finishing a call in the area when they spotted the Martin brothers and their friend, Xavier Anderson, 9, playing.

Since the lockdown, neither has been able to get on the ice, which they admitted played a role in their decision to squeeze in a few minutes of play and try to leave a positive impression on the kids.

“We played hockey growing up, and we used to play road hockey and it was something that was just part of our lives as children,” Dartch said.

“We don’t really see that as much, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Kids are obviously stuck inside and not being able to go to school or see their friends, so just seeing them outside was nice . . . and it was refreshing as police officers to . . . take five to 10 minutes out of our day to go play road hockey with them.”

Sims, who couldn’t recall the last time he played road hockey, said the response on social media caught them both by surprise.

“We weren’t expecting this at all,” he said.

“We didn’t know one of the parents had taken a picture of us while we were playing with them, so it’s definitely a shock, but it’s good to see some positivity in the community.”

With a provincewide stay-at-home order in place, Dartch and Sims said they were glad to see youngsters finding ways to exercise safely and spend some time outdoors during the pandemic.

The stay-at-home order requires people to leave their homes only for essential reasons, including grocery shopping, medical appointments, exercise, work or school. Outdoor gatherings of no more than five people are allowed if social distancing is maintained.

As for Bently and Jace, their little game — and the new sticks and road hockey balls the kids received the next day — made their weekend, Leroux said.

“Honestly, I think kids are handling (this pandemic) better than adults are,” she said.

“But I think any little excitement during this time is really good for their mental health and just their happiness in general.”