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Canadians suffer far greater off-ice loss than any on-ice setback

It's a given that when local sports resume, at some point in time, the look will be different from what we have all grown accustomed to.

In the case of the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, and a handful of other Sudbury and area organizations, that look will also carry with it some very heavy hearts.

Just over a week ago, the Canadians' family suffered a stinging loss with the passing of Jennifer Hinschberger at just 44 years of age, following a short illness. Hinschberger leaves behind her husband, Sean, who worked security at the Rayside games, as well as three children: Tatem, Easton and Peyton.

The daughter of Jerry and Suzan Young, and little sister to former Sudbury Wolves' forward Jason Young, Jennifer would be raised in an environment where sport was inevitably part of her life.

"Because of Jerry and Jason and their involvement in the community, I think we all felt like we had a connection to the family," said Julie Dubois, the Canadians' game day manager and long-time neighbourhood friend from their time growing up in Whitson Gardens in Chelmsford.

"Their father gave so much of his time and kind of set the tone for the kids," Dubois continued. "As Jennifer got older, her name started to surface more and more, as she got involved with lacrosse (VP of the Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association)."

Yet Rayside-Balfour hockey, at pretty much every level imaginable, is where Hinschberger truly forged an impressive reputation. "Jen was a very energetic person, just a great person, with a million dollar smile, very welcoming," said Dubois.

"You could give her a task, and the task would be done a thousand times better than anticipated. She also had a lot of connections, over the years, through her father and her family." All of which combined to make Hinschberger a near ideal choice with pretty much any role that involved a great deal of contact with the public.

"It might not seem like a big deal, to most people, to have just the right person running the door for your team, but it is a big deal," stated Dubois. "You're the face of the team, the first person that somebody sees when they walk into our arena. I don't know how many comments I have read about just how much everybody is going to miss her smile."

"As (Canadians GM) Jeff (Forsyth) said, you always felt welcome walking into our arena."

A long-time administrator with midget AAA hockey in Rayside-Balfour, Jack MacLellan had witnessed, first hand, the many benefits of Hinschberger's personality, with the families enjoying a Chelmsford affiliation dating back to the early 1970's.

While hockey was the primary connecting rod, their friendship carried over to the diamonds in the summer. "I knew Jerry through ball as well," said MacLellan. "He coached kids ball, but he also coached men's fastball, and I played. Later on, our son Scott would play hockey with Jason."

"The families were always together, and Jennifer was always tagging along."

When the opportunity came to put her volunteerism to work, MacLellan found the perfect role for Hinschberger. "She was always very personable, and she could handle herself in a crowd really well. When it came to selling 50/50 tickets, it was almost like Jennifer never missed a single person at the games."

"At our midget games, we didn't get enormous crowds," added MacLellan. "Sometimes, it was just mom and dad, grandpa and gramma and a friend, or something. I remember at one of our midget games, we might have had something like 25 to 35 people at the game."

"Jennifer was selling 50/50, so she brought the money to my wife, Ann. I happened to be up in the booth. I asked Ann how she did and she tells me there's $150 - which I thought was amazing. That was pretty damn good, $75 for the team."

"No, Ann tells me, $150 for the winner. She sold $300 in total. I thought maybe Jennifer had walked up and down Edward street, selling tickets."

Stories like this surprised no one who knew Hinschberger well, including Julie Dubois, who served as a primary organizer of the Rayside-Balfour Minor Hockey Association tournaments for several years. "There are so many things than need to be done at a tournament, and everybody kind of has their own little piece of the puzzle," she said.

"You always try and surround yourself with people that you don't have to worry about a piece missing. You knew that you could always rely on Jen - and then she would approach you again, looking for something else that you needed done."

With Hinshberger and her family having devoted so much of their lives to helping children and residents of Rayside-Balfour, it's no small wonder that a large group have tried to rally in support of Sean and the kids.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up, with full details on the expected use and need for the funds, at the following Facebook link:

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