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The Heroes of 2020
In between playing hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads and taking university courses, Liam Peyton tries to persuade more people to give blood.
The 20-year-old winger is a player ambassador for the Hockey Gives Blood program and already gives a sizable amount of his time to campaign initiatives. But with all of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, blood is in short supply so Peyton feels he needs to hit the trail even harder than ever.
This is Canada Life Week to Save Lives and he is spreading the word that donation appointments made through his organization were down almost 70 per cent in 2020.
"Obviously with COVID the past year, a lot of what we've done has been virtual," he said. "That's the way the world is going anyway so a lot of what we do is through social media. We've been using that as our platform to reach out because that's also where all the young fans and people that follow you are. That's where a big portion of our work with Hockey Gives Blood is done. It's how I promote and ask people to donate.
"Prior to joining Hockey Gives Blood, I wasn't that informed so I wasn't in donating regularly myself so that's something else I've put in the front of my mind. When I do get the chance to go in and donate, I'm in the clinic donating. I've also joined the stem cell registry and I'm an organ donor, which are other things Canada Life takes care of. With our role in the community, we've been given an opportunity to shine a light on things that are important so that's what I try to do."
Peyton spent his first three QMJHL seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders and that's where he first became active as a donor volunteer. Like with many other Islanders players, it was Halifax native Matt Welsh who drew Peyton into the blood donation program. Welsh was a star goalie in Charlottetown for five years but left an even bigger legacy as a volunteer and community leader.
"Hockey Gives Blood was an opportunity for players around the league and other people in the hockey community to use our role in the community and our pull a little bit to try to influence some younger kids and other people around us to to get out and donate," Peyton said. "It was something that became a bit of an opportunity for me last year with Matthew Welsh in Charlottetown. He did a really good job of showing us the ropes with Canada's Lifeline and Hockey Gives Blood. It was something I was pretty excited to be a part of.
"I've been fortunate enough that I haven't needed a blood donation but it's a pretty prominent thing in the world. The stat is that half of Canadians will need blood or know someone who will. I've always been fortunate enough to be healthy so I wanted to give back and help out people who haven't had the same good health and luck that I've had."
Now that he's with the Mooseheads, Peyton is taking a page from Welsh's book and pushing his teammates to get involved. He jokes that it's been a slow sell so far because he does his best work in person and the pandemic has kept the players apart as much as they've been together.
"It's been a little bit different this year with everyone kind of in and out so hopefully now that we're back together things can be a little more constant and I can get some more guys on board. Hopefully some of us can get in to the clinic and donate together," he said.
"That was a big thing with Welshy. He always made it a big deal within the team. Now that I'm an older guy here in Halifax, I want to help the younger players bring this into the future and hopefully build it into a chain like Matt did in Charlottetown. If they hear about it now, then when they're 19 or 20 and they're veterans in the league, they can pass it on to the younger generation as well."
With the players all given clearance to return to the rink for practices on Monday, Peyton finally got face to face again with everyone. It was the first time the players got to skate together since the league paused more than six weeks ago.
"Today was nice, I have to say," Peyton said on Monday evening. "Just being in the dressing room with all the guys was great. There are obviously some different rules and things like that but it's been like that all year. We wear masks a lot and limit the amount of guys in certain areas. But just to have a little sense of normality and be able to hang around each other again was a pretty good feeling."
And with Monday's announcement from the league that this weekend's QMJHL games in the Maritimes will be postponed, all the Mooseheads players can do for now sit tight and be patient. It's expected there will be more information for Maritime teams by the end of the week.
"It's obviously a tough situation," Peyton said. "What I've had in my mind all year is that you just have to roll with it and take it as it comes. But it's obviously been nothing short of disappointing. Everybody wants to have an opportunity to get out there and play but we understand why we can't sometimes. Getting to be a part of a special organization like the Mooseheads as a 20-year-old, it's been on my mind because it's my last season in the league and this is a great opportunity for me. So that's been tough to sit here and wait and just want to be playing.
"But I'm just trying to focus on other things when we can't play, like school and Hockey Gives Blood. So it's not disappointing in the sense that we feel like there's something we can do about it, it's just that we all love the game so much and we really want to be in the rink and be around each other as a team. Hopefully things will start to roll out here soon but it's just a waiting game."