Five Hole For Food’s concept is simple: they drive across Canada, you show up with a can of food and a stick, and you all play a massive game of road hockey.
The bigger the place, the bigger the game. But, every year, Five Hole For Food (FHFF) raises more and more pounds of food for local banks. Last year, their goal was 100,000 pounds and they raised 113,000 – 43,000 of them coming from the tour’s last stop in Vancouver.
This year, FHFF founder and SFU student Richard Loat and his team raised the bar – their goal is 250,000 pounds of food. It’s hefty, but it’s a convenient figure, and Loat thinks Five Hole is well on its way to going shelf.
“It’s a nice round number, a quarter of a million pounds,” said Loat on Thursday, while his team was taking a break in Marathon, Ontario (the ironic title of the town was purely coincidence, I’m told).
Since Thursday, Five Hole has already played two more games in Winnipeg and Regina, and they’re on their way to Calgary for Tuesday (July 16).
“The goal is picked on the confidence Canadians give us,” said Loat. “We’re gonna surpass it (250,000 pounds) in Vancouver… We’re just past the halfway part of the tour.”
(*Victoria and Vancouver’s games will take place this coming Friday and Saturday: July 19th at Saanich Plaza, and July 20th on Granville Street.)
Before Toronto, Loat says FHFF’s total was at 75,000 pounds. That’s including the West and Canada’s biggest city – or its flagship games in Vancouver and Victoria.
“For me, it’s about raising more and more every year,” he said. “Even if it’s just one pound of food more, it’s considered a success… The more impact we can leave on the community, the more impact we can make from year to year.”
Five Hole For Food’s concept isn’t the only thing unique about their operation. They also promote themselves almost entirely on social media, relying on word of mouth and the strength of their cause.
Also, Canadians loves road hockey, and a few worthy celebrity endorsements always help.
Past Five Hole tours have garnered the attention of musicians and TV celebrities, but this year’s version featured testimonials from Canucks stars like Trevor Linden and Roberto Luongo. For a hockey fan like Loat – and for an event like Five Hole – it doesn’t get much better than that.
“The Luongo one was pretty special,” said Loat. “I enjoyed the fact, in Ottawa we had Kyle Turris come out with us. To have an NHL player of his calibre supporting us, year-in and year-out, coming out to a game I think is pretty special.
“Trevor was a special one,” he continued. “It’s an immense point of pride just because this has been my baby that I’ve grown year-over-year.”
Loat founded Five Hole with the help of a few friends in 2010, just after the Winter Olympics in his hometown of Vancouver (Loat’s originally from North Van, to be more specific). Everyone who travels and works with Five Hole is there for the cause, he says, and they all do the work of well-paid professionals for the salary of a free volunteer.
(As an example, Five Hole’s media page and its YouTube channel operate like a manicured broadcast network, and its site and organization have the look and feel of million-dollar charity or a Fortune 500 company. If you told me Five Hole was run by Virgin and the British Branson, it wouldn’t surprise me.)
“I feel very fortunate that I get to do what we do with Five Hole and find (NHL) players lending their image, their name, and their clout,” Loat says. “You don’t see a lot of organizations that have 50-plus volunteers that are running the show. Most volunteers, it’s a role… with us, volunteers fill a position on the pay scale.”
As a Vancouver kid, Loat says experiencing the Maritimes has been one of the best parts of every tour, and Five Hole’s videos from the start of the 2013 tour (in St. John’s, Halifax, and Charlottetown) give image to Loat’s words.
“Being out in the Maritimes… you see the small town effect really kick in,” he said. “They care about hockey just as much as any city in Canada.
“They talk about Maritime hospitality. There’s a connection between people out there that’s really special.”
The tour is a whirlwind for everyone involved – 13 cities in 17 days across the second-largest country in the world – but it also ends with a bang. The final days in Victoria and Vancouver have become Five Hole’s signature series, with the B.C. capital rivalling its mainland brother.
“Coming home is just really special,” Loat says. “Coming to Granville Street (where the Vancouver game is held), it’s a bit of a homecoming.
“Vancouver is our flagship, but the Victoria event is not far behind. They’re always competing with Vancouver to raise more. Calgary and Edmonton always compete, the prairies are always competing… I look forward to all the cities, there’s something special about all of them.”
Next year’s Five Hole is expected to be its biggest yet, seeing as its the tour’s fifth anniversary.
And, with pounds of food turning into tons – and Loat’s goals growing at the end of every July – hockey fans everywhere might want to mark their cities’ dates on their calendars.