Giving back to game of hockey top priority for California youth hockey alum, Oceanside native Gates
Jack Gates grew up in the San Diego area and developed his game at the youth and junior level where he was able to play NCAA Division I hockey for Colorado College.
Since graduating in 2021, the Oceanside native has continued to give back to the game that gave him so much with Triumph Together, a nonprofit organization that connects collegiate and professional athletes with kids at nearby children’s hospitals. Gates organizes getting kids tickets to games, signed gear, meet and greets with athletes, and videos of encouragement before surgeries, just to name a few of the initiatives.
“I started my senior year at Colorado College when I realized I probably wasn’t playing professionally after my collegiate career came to an end,” explained Gates, now 25. “I always enjoyed giving back to the community that showed me support and I wanted to continue even if I wasn’t playing any more. In the grand scheme of things, hockey is just a game that I grew to love, and it is something we often take for granted. I saw throughout my career how much of an impact I could make in a kid’s life when I threw a puck over the glass or signed an autograph or gave away a stick. I was fortunate to visit the Colorado Springs hospital and I saw how I could make a kid’s day when they were battling things that nobody should ever have to go through, especially a young kid.
“The majority of us wake up every morning and don’t think twice about our health, but these poor kids have to think about that every waking moment. I realized that If I was able to make them forget about that for just part of their day and give them hope, I was going to try and help as many people that I could. I heard a good quote that said, ‘We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.’”
Gates added that cancer and other long-term illnesses take away a big part of a child’s life “when they did nothing wrong to deserve it.”
“They don’t get to do things we take for granted or things that are part of our everyday life, and that includes sports,” said Gates. “Sports aren’t just about hitting a jumper, or throwing a ball, or shooting a puck. Sports give people a sense of community, a sense of hope, and something to believe in. That is what these kids need right now. They need something to look forward to, something to believe in, and to know that someone is thinking of them and has their back during those long tough days when it feels like they’re alone.”
In recent months, Gates said NHL players such as Matty Beniers, Jack Eichel, Clayton Keller, Trevor Zegras, and Noah Cates have joined with Triumph Together to give children memories they’ll never forget.
Back home, Gates said he was fortunate enough to play for some amazing teams and coaches who have helped him get to where he is today, and there’s no way he’s in this position without any of them.
“Ed Radley and Craig Sterling with the SDIA Oilers helped me fall in love with hockey and made it fun for me,” said Gates. “They were great role models and instilled life lessons in me that I still look back on. I played for Noah Babin with the San Diego Jr. Gulls, and he took my hockey skills to the next level. He taught me the details of the game and was a mentor that I looked up to at a young age. He helped me navigate the hockey world and my personal life. He was a great teacher on the ice as well as off it and helped me take the next step as a hockey player and a young man.
“Alex Kim and the Anaheim Jr. Ducks helped me really evolve into a college athlete. He taught me the business side of things and played a major role in my commitment to Colorado College. I learned how to really train and compete at a high level, and he really helped shape my hockey game in order to be successful.”
After youth hockey, Gates skated two seasons for the NAHL’s Janesville Jets before heading to Colorado College in 2017.
Gates explained that growing up, his parents didn’t play hockey “and we really knew nothing about the sport.”
“My sister Tanner and I started roller hockey at the park down the street from our house and it just grew from there,” he said. “Growing up in a family where we played hockey at a high level really helped us both. We were able to hold each other accountable and push each other to be the best we could be. There was also an overwhelming amount of support we had for one another because we were able to see firsthand how hard we worked to get to where we were. My parents and other sister were great supporters for both of us. There were a lot of long car rides to Los Angeles or Anaheim and a lot of holidays spent at hotels or in airports and I am extremely appreciative of everything they did for us.
“They pushed us to be the best we could be on the ice but especially off the ice and that helped us all be successful wherever our paths took us.”
Tanner is two years younger than Jack and is finishing up her NCAA D-I career this season at Colgate University.
Moving forward, Gates said Triumph Together has helped over 50 kids meet their favorite players or teams the past two years and that he works with all different sports and kids from all over the country.
“I know every player wants to help and wants to give back to their community, but they don’t have time or don’t know how,” Gates said. “I try and bridge that gap and make it as easy as possible for everyone involved.
“Right now, it is still new, and we can use all the help we can get, whether that is just spreading the word, giving any amount of donations, following us on social media, or connecting us with kids that need help or athletes who are willing to help.”
For more information, to donate, or to contact Gates, visit triumphtogether.net and follow on Instagram at @triumph_together_.
— Matt Mackinder
(March 13, 2023)