The Butcher Bros: Long Road Ahead

Tough Times

The sport of hockey is one of Canada’s most cherished pastimes. It has ingrained itself in the fabric of Canadian culture. From using hockey as a gathering place for its fans at arenas, bars or around their television at home watching nationally televised broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, and now Sportsnet, to having a depiction of children playing the sport on our currency. 

Hockey as a sport has grown to become symbolic of Canada.

Which made it even harder on many Canadians who play the sport recreationally and professionally to keep away from it after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions were put in place across Ontario.

One of these teams affected by the stoppage of play during the lockdown was that of the Butcher Brothers. The Butcher Bros. were signed up to play in SVHL Adult Hockey League at the Sports Village in Vaughan during their 2020-2021 season with the hopes that they would be able to get through the year with no problems.

Within a week of the season commencing however, they were forced to put the season on halt as Ontario in October 2020 following the massive spike of COVID-19 cases. 

Many felt the effects of the long quarantine period, and the constant shift between the existing Covid protocols. This was the sentiment held by the members of the Butcher Bros.

“Honestly it was quite tough going through all of last season not being able to play. I spent many weekends wishing I was out on the ice with boys, but we knew the situation around us made that really tough”, says Michael Linardi.

Linardi is one of the organizers for the team as he plays in a captain like role, he also had a real part in naming the team. 

The Butcher Bros had a tough time trying to decide on a name before the start of the lockout season, “We were really struggling to figure out a name that everyone wanted to stick with,” they than decided on the Butcher Bros as Linardi works at Potenza Meats in Etobicoke, which his family owns. 

He said, “I liked the name, it was pretty funny and the other guys on the team also got a good kick out of it too, they seemed to enjoy it, so we stuck with it”. 

The guys on the team all know each other pretty well, over half of the team went to the same high school together, some even met while playing hockey when they were younger playing on a team like the Vaughan Panthers as they played ‘A’ and ‘AA’ minor hockey together.

The team keeps in touch daily and they try to hang out with each other as much as they can, especially with a turbulent last 20 months.

“It sucked that me and the other boys weren’t able to get on the ice on a weekly basis, we tried to get to some of the outdoor rinks a few times last year, but it was so difficult to find one that wasn’t crowded or faced being shut down,”

added Linardi. “When we were able to get lucky enough to find a nice sheet of ice to play on, the couple of times we could, me and the boys had a great time”.

According to there are close to 8,000 hockey rinks across Canada, with just over 2,800 of them being indoor arenas, of which the Ontario Recreation Facilities Association (ORFA) states that 750 of them are in Ontario. (chart)

SVHL commissioner Duane Rivait says that across all the divisions in the league there are 98 teams, playing games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. “We’re so glad we were able to get this season going this winter, and we haven’t had any hiccups yet, and we’re hopeful we won’t, but we are still staying very cautious.” 

The Movember Initiative

In early October, as the new season of SVHL hockey was starting up again for the 2021-2022 season the Butcher Bros wanted to do something to give back to their community and raise awareness for a cause that they believe in. 

For the month of November, the team decided they were gonna start up their own Movember donation page to raise money and awareness for men’s health. 

Movember is an annual event that involves the growing of moustaches during the month of November, in order to raise awareness men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, the goal of the event is to “change the face of men’s health”. 

All of the guys on the team were on board with the idea when it was brought up Linardi says, “So the guys decided to get clean shaven on November 1 and grow out their moustaches for the whole month”. 

Through this they used their team Instagram account and their own personal Instagram accounts to promote their cause and their donation page to raise money for men’s health and by the end of November, they raised $2,595. “It felt so good to contribute towards an amazing cause”, Linardi said. 

Staying Social

Last season, Butcher Bros forward Daniel Colatosti came up with the idea to create an Instagram account for the team. “My older brother’s hockey team made an account for themselves and I thought it was a pretty fun idea, so I brought it up to the guys to see if they were interested”, he said. 

“The guys all really liked that idea so after the first game we went to the locker room and we created the account”, Colatosti added.

The team uses the Instagram account as a way to have fun and post updates to their games, while promoting the team as well as promoting their Movember donation page. 

“We also use the account to post our player of the game videos after every game”, Linardi said. “After every game the team decides who we felt played the best just as a fun incentive to get the boys playing well… they all want a bit of the spotlight”, Linardi added, with a chuckle.

Most teams around the NHL use this same format with the Calgary Flames giving out a black cowboy hat to their player of the game in honour of the Calgary Police Service, and the Florida Panthers giving out a “Vinny’s Barber Shop” cape to their player of the game.

The Butcher Bros decided on giving their player of the game a replica WWE championship belt. “The winner of that belt gets up in front of the guys and gives a few words before taking a picture for the Instagram account, they then keep the belt with them until the next week where they award the next player with it”, Linardi said.

“I don’t know if it’s a good sign that our goalie has won the award more than anyone else on the team, but it’s all in good fun”, he added.

While the Butcher Bros may not know when the time will come for them to call their hockey careers a wrap, what they do know is that they are going to have a great time until then. They know the road to getting back to “normal” is going to take a while, with some restrictions in place and new variants of the virus leading to the rise of cases as the winter months loom.

“In the meantime we’re gonna snipe some nasty goals (score) and celly (celebrate) even harder with the boys, because we’ve seen our game get taken away from us once, there’s no telling if its going to get taken away again, so we’re gonna go have a good time,” -Michael Linardi

Progress to getting back to normal is being made daily, but to get back to where we feel safe again is still going to be a long time coming.