Heroes Hockey Challenge Featuring CF Players and NHL Alumni
By Laura Earle
For generations Canadians have grown up dreaming of playing in the big rinks, with the big boys and also for generations, young people have grown up with a desire to give back to their country in the form of military service. The Heroes Hockey Challenge is a fundraising initiative that marries these two passions of serving our nation and hockey under the eloquent mission statement, “A Nation Needs Its Heroes”.
The Heroes Hockey Challenge has taken hold of both the business and military communities with a fever pitch to get in on the ground floor of this unique series of events. What started as a single event fundraising idea by Glenn Cumyn after meeting Master Corporal Paul Franklin, an Afghanistan veteran who lost both legs in battle, has expanded into a six-city tour featuring gala dinners followed by the best of the NHL alumni facing off against the best of the Canadian Forces.
Richard Brodeur, retired NHL all-star goalie for the Vancouver Canucks, has since come on board as a the much needed link to the NHL alumni and to manage the event.
“It’s two events in the same week, with a corporate event with the gala dinner and entertainment to raise money, to showcase the military for what they do for us and gain some funds, and then there is the hockey game which is a family affair,” says Brodeur.
Each of the six cities tapped for the event, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Quebec and Calgary will host a gala dinner and an NHL versus CF game. The gala dinners will feature all the pomp and ceremony of a military mess dinner with corporate sponsors and business leaders given the opportunity to dine with NHL alumni and Canadian Forces personnel at each table. There will also be some big name entertainers at these galas and while names have to be kept hush, hush for now, organizers are confident participants will be wowed.
Brodeur says the same week that the galas are held, NHL alumni and serving military members will hit the ice for an event that will be the thrill of a lifetime for many involved.
“We want to give the players from the military the feeling of what it’s like to play with the pros,” says Brodeur. “And to make it a family affair, for people to come and enjoy watching these guys play hockey.”
Countless others have been tapped to help organize such a large scale undertaking including Major Harpal Mandaher, Regimental Major with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The Princess Patricia’s Foundation has been selected to be the umbrella organization for the funds raised through ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandise sales on the Heroes of Hockey Challenge website. Twenty-five per cent of the money will go to the Amputee Coalition of Canada and the remaining 75 per cent distributed to registered military charities that help soldiers, their families and the survivors of fallen soldiers.
Major Mandaher says it was like a dream come true for some of our Canadian Forces when they heard about the chance to play.
“I’ve got a line up around the block to get in...it’s a big thing for soldiers,” says Mandaher. “In Vancouver they get to play in the big arena where the Canucks play, so the soldiers not only get to play in the big venues but they get to play with the NHL stars, so this is an once in a life time chance.”
With no shortage of military members wanting to play, including some who have dropped out of tournaments that conflict with the dates just to get the chance, Major Mandaher turned over the duty of selecting the players to the local regiments.
“Local regiments are taking the lead as coordinators on behalf of the Army. They are working with the local units and it’s up to them how to choose. They’re looking for high level players to make sure the game is high quality for the folks watching.”
Mandaher says they’re hopeful to have Afghanistan veterans out on the ice as part of the squads.
Each location for the events will have their own local flavour, including alumni from the Quebec Nordiques playing at the Quebec City stop, Halifax’s Junior team, the Mooseheads will lend a helping hand, and a number of extra V.I.P’s are planned for the grand finale in Toronto.
So if you love our soldiers and love our game, be ready for the best of both and support this year’s Heroes of Hockey Challenge when it comes to a community near you.
Heroes Hockey Challenge, 2012 Schedule:
• Hockey Game, January 26th @ Scotiabank Saddledome
• Gala, January 27th @ Telus Convention Centre
• Hockey Game, February 3rd @ Rogers Arena
• Gala, February 1st @ the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
• Hockey Game, February 10th @ Verdun Auditorium
• Gala, February 8th @ Gare Windsor
• Hockey Game, February 28th @ Halifax Metro Centre
• Gala, February 29th @ World Trade Convention Center
• Hockey Game, March 8th @ Colisee Pepsi
• Gala, March 9th @ Fairmont Chateau Frontenac
• Hockey Game, March 23rd @ Ricoh Centre
• Gala, March 22nd @ the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex
For more information go to: www.heroeshockeychallenge.com.
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