Even though the 76 regular season games kept the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate busy during its inaugural season in Laval, the Rocket and its players made sure to find the time to prove to locals that they wanted to be active in the community from the moment they arrived.

The Rocket made community involvement benefitting youth, education and minor hockey a major priority in their initiatives last year, and this year they plan to help children blossom through sport and reading. To accomplish this goal, the organization will work hand-in-hand with other local organizations around Laval and Montreal’s North Shore.

With this mission in mind, the Rocket and their mascot Cosmo were present in the community year-round. The players could be found alongside Cosmo at multiple community events, including Laval en Blanc, the Fête de quartier Val des Brises & Champfleury, and the Grand fête des pompiers de Laval, among others. They could also be seen at the Cité de la Santé hospital bringing joy to sick patients, and in local arenas and community centres, and at several day camps over the summer. The Rocket also teamed up with the Service de Police de Laval for the Parcours des héros, an event benefitting Special Olympics Quebec, an organization that aims to enrich the lives of those with an intellectual disability through sport.

On top of that, during their inaugural season, the team’s off-ice efforts allowed them to donate close to $100,000 in tickets and promotional items in order to raise funds for different organizations. The Rocket also raised a little over $40,000 for different causes through 50/50 raffles and lotteries, and raised $49,773 for local fundraisers.

One of the most memorable community projects from last season was the Laval Rocket Hockey Tour – and the team is bringing it back this year so that six more teams, one from each of the minor hockey associations in Laval, can benefit from a practice in their own arena with Rocket players and a Rocket coach. These practices, which this year will be run by assistant coach Daniel Jacob, will afford youngsters the opportunity to learn some tricks from the pros. The Laval Rocket Hockey Tour also allows Novice to Bantam-aged players to spend some one-on-one time with players they look up to. This year’s version of the contest will open during the fall.

The team also wants to be more active in the community off the ice this season, which is why they’ll be launching a new program promoting reading and hockey to close to 3,000 elementary school students. Three to four players will visit 10 different schools in and around the Laval region where they’ll read The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier to students, run hockey drills and sign some autographs. Carrier’s story is considered by many to be a Canadian classic, which is why you can find a quote from it on Canadian five-dollar bills printed between 2001 and 2013:

“The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places – the school, the church and the skating rink – but our real life was on the skating rink.”

While it’s important for the team to contribute to their community year round, it’s of extra importance during the holiday season – which is why they have multiple activities planned from December to February. The league-wide Teddy Bear Toss will return to Place Bell on December 1. Fans will attempt to throw more stuffed animals than last year on the ice when the Rocket score their first goal of the game. Last season, 3,217 teddy bears were distributed among eight different community centers and organizations to ensure that those who were in need of a little extra joy received it. The same will be done this season.

Everyone knows that hockey teams have one main goal, to win the trophy that awaits the league champion – which in the AHL’s case is the Calder Cup. Although the Rocket didn’t reach that goal last year, they did successfully accomplish their objective of immersing themselves in and bettering their community from the start. Now that a new hockey season is upon us, it’s impossible to predict whether or not the Rocket will win the Calder Cup, but they will most definitely win the hearts of the citizens of Laval again.