I am a hockey nut. I love the action, the stats and the personality of the game.
Over the years I have been very fortunate to have conversations with some of the great players of the game and each time I have been struck by the humility, cheerfulness and generous spirit of those that have made a career of playing in the National Hockey League.
The players and organizations (whether it is the Niagara Ice Dogs in the CHL or an AHL or NHL team) seem to gladly take on the additional obligations that extend beyond the ice surface in the form of charitable contributions. I am not sure what the exact reason is that all hockey players seem to accept in this role, but almost without exception it is part of the culture of anyone who is serious about playing organized hockey at any level.
On Friday night, Katie and I had an opportunity to get out to see some of the greatest players in the history of the game come to the Jack Gatecliff Arena in St. Catharines and put on a great show for charity: Hockey Night in St. Catharines 3.
Who was there? Local current NHL players Cal Clutterbuck (from Welland and of the Minnesota Wild), social media superstar Paul Bissonnette (from Welland and of the Phoenix Coyotes), and St. Catharines’ native Bruce Boudreau (head coach of the Anaheim Ducks) was behind one of the benches while the other one was managed by NHL legend and Hall of Fame goaltender Gerry Cheevers!
I have seen a lot of hockey games in a lot of arenas over the years, but it was a delight to see these talent-filled rosters playing here in Niagara – players like Paul Coffey, Mike Gartner, Doug Gilmour, Steve Thomas and Steve Larmer – and watching Coffey and Gartner skate I wondered if they could play today.
An added bonus was seeing former Niagara Ice Dogs Andrew Agozzino, Alex Friesen and Darren Archibald playing with and against each other.
NHL Hall-of-Fame referee Ron Hoggarth kept the spirit of the game fun and loose carrying a microphone with him to talk up the players and share the chuckles with the fans.
Clearly the game lacked the physical play and seriousness of the Stanley Cup Finals, but that doesn’t mean everything was fun and games.
This was the 3rd Hockey Night in St. Catharines organized by St. Catharines MP Rick Dyskstra as a charity for the United Way of St. Catharines. This year, a portion of the proceeds are going to Parkinson’s research as a tribute to Niagara resident, former NHL player and coach Steve Ludzik who recently made the public announcement that he was combatting the disease. Ludzik captained the Grey Beards and Dykstra captained the Blue Beards.
Over the previous 2 events they have earned over $225,000 and this year they raised $140,420.
It was a great time, the only negative I have to say is that there were still a number of empty seats in the arena and at $10 for charity to watch Doug Gilmour skating in on Paul Coffey there is no excuse for a single seat going unsold!
As Niagara residents we all need to make sure that those seats are filled next year!