NHLers to swing up to Whistler 

Sharks' Dillon, Predators' Johansen hosting charity golf tournament

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FAIRMONT CHATEAU WHISTLER - TEEING OFF The Whistler Invitational golf tournament is slated for Saturday at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
  • Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • TEEING OFF The Whistler Invitational golf tournament is slated for Saturday at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Brenden Dillon will be looking to get his golf game in order before this weekend.

The San Jose Sharks defenceman has had a shorter offseason than usual after helping his squad to the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this summer. San Jose fell in six games in its first-ever trip to the final round.

"The golf game's coming along," he said. "Fortunately for me, I wasn't able to work on my game too much.

"It was an unbelievable year for our team and our group of guys and for me personally to be part of something like that."

Dillon will be hitting the link in Whistler this weekend alongside Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen as the pair host the Potential Apparel Whistler Invitational golf tournament at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Aug. 6. Other big leaguers, including Columbus Blue Jackets' players Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert, former Canucks Darcy Hordichuk, Jeff Tambellini and Larry Melnyk, and B.C. Lions Marco Iannuzzi and Emmanuel Arceneaux are slated to attend.

"Things are setting up to be fantastic," Dillon said. "There's a lot of excitement.

"I think we had a very, very successful first annual tournament and it was almost a no-brainer for us to bring it back up to Whistler."

With things running smoothly in Year 1, Dillon said the main improvement would be to hope Mother Nature cooperates with some sunny weather this Saturday.

Dillon said he and Johansen grew up in the Vancouver hockey scene, would play each other "a million times a year" in the Western Hockey League before becoming NHL regulars and would reconnect when hockey season was done. In many cases, they were attending charity tournaments set up by other players.

"Me and Ryan have been buddies for awhile now. With him being from Port Moody and me from Surrey, we grew up always playing against each other," he said. "As soon as we came back for the summer, we would hang out with one another, hit the golf course."

Proceeds from the tournament go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a cause Dillon explained is close to the hearts of both himself and Johansen.

"Our families, mine and Ryan's, have dealt with sickness in the past," he said. "In the season, we're fortunate enough to go and check out some hospitals and meet some less-than-fortunate kids, kids that weren't fortunate enough to have been blessed with the best health.

"What it came down to is giving these kids the ability to have fun, to get their dream and get an opportunity to do something that they love."

Those who are unable to participate in the tournament are still able to contribute — and win.

Both players have put up tickets to their respective home openers, both marquee games, as raffle prizes. Johansen's Predators will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 14 and Dillon's Sharks will match up with the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 12.

Coming into last season, San Jose was perceived as a team that struggled to perform in the playoffs after a dominant regular-season, something he hopes has changed with last season's run to the championship series.

"To be a part of that group that basically just said, 'We're not going to do that anymore' — we're a new group, we're a fun group and we're a group that gets along with one another," Dillon said. "We just want to play for each other."

For more information, visit www.whistlerinvitational.com.

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