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Hockey Challenge meets fundraising goals

Next year’s event should be more profitable, musical There were a lot of memorable moments in The Keg Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge held in Whistler and Vancouver last weekend.

Next year’s event should be more profitable, musical

There were a lot of memorable moments in The Keg Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge held in Whistler and Vancouver last weekend.

There was a one-timer breakaway goal by the Hanson brothers, of the movie Slap Shot; Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell stopped a shot by Hall of Fame-er Cam Neely; six-time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Trottier scored on a breakaway goal.

By the time three periods in Whistler were over the score was 8-7, with the Hockey Heroes – which included a number of former NHL all-stars – edging the Hollywood North Stars team.

The following day in Vancouver, the teams battled to an 8-8 tie at GM place after the Hockey Heroes tied the score with a minute and a half remaining.

Although all the players and fans had an entertaining weekend, the real winners are the athletes who are in training for the Olympics. All the proceeds from the event will go towards the Athletes at Work Legacy Fund.

The organizers are still crunching the numbers, but it looks like the event will reach its modest goals for the first year.

"Off the books, it was a huge success," said Will Davis, the general manager and producer of The Keg Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge. "Mayor (Hugh) O’Reilly and Mayor (Larry) Campbell have definitely signed on for next year. After that amazing save he made in the third period (Campbell) wants back – not just to play, but to back the whole event and give it his support.

"In terms of numbers, our goal was to raise $20,000 this year for the athletes. So far it looks like we’re going to reach that objective.

"Between (referee) Ron Hoggarth and the Hanson Brothers, I think everybody got their money’s worth."

Because the event is in its first year, it was difficult to find sponsorships or get discounts from suppliers, Davis says. As a result, most of the money raised by the two hockey games and a dinner, auction and comedy show in Whistler will go to covering costs. Renting GM Place for Sunday’s game was $70,000. The MVP dinner, auction and comedy show at the Telus Whistler Conference Centre cost $20,000.

"When groups start to pick up those costs for us, we’ll have a lot more money to give to the athletes," said Davis.

With more time to promote and organize next year’s event, Davis believes they will be able to make a bigger impact for Olympic athletes.

In the next few weeks, Davis is also confident he will be able to announce partnerships with Spirit 2010, 2010 LegaciesNow and the province of British Columbia.

The Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge was a last-minute idea after a dinner and "roast" of participating politicians, including former Prime Minister Jean Chretrien, was axed. Davis says it didn’t take long to get former NHL players like Neely, Trottier and Russ Courtnall on board, or to line up celebrities for the Hollywood North Stars team.

The money was always intended to go towards Olympic athletes, and the pursuit of gold medals at home in 2010 – Canada is still the only country never to win a gold medal while hosting the Games.

"These guys, like Russ Courtnall, they know we’re building something that will help our athletes in the future, and they’re stoked to be able to help," said Davis.

In Whistler, the general admission tickets sold out close to three weeks ahead of the game. The MVP tickets, which included the game and evening events, did not sell out. Part of the problem was that media outlets confused the MVP tickets and general admission tickets and announced that the event was completely sold out. Davis did his best to get the right message out there, but MVP ticket sales slowed after the mistake was made.

"It’s all growing pains for an event that’s only going to get better," said Davis.

Next year’s event will be similar, with a few noticeable additions.

The first addition is to include a show that makes use of the musical talents on the Hollywood North Stars Team.

"There were a lot of people on the ice who were singers. Barney Bentall, John (Mann) from the Spirit of the West, (Craig) Northey from The Odds, (Keith) Scott of the Bryan Adams Band – all of those guys are stoked and want to get back and do something next year. They want back in the game, but they also want to do something more inclusive," Davis said.

Another addition Davis hopes to include next year is a look at the different Olympians and Paralympians who will directly benefit from the funds raised in the Hockey Challenge.

"Basically we would like to have a podium fund with at least 16 elite athletes identified and supported. The Whistler Adaptive Ski Program has already identified their athlete. (That will) help to stir up the emotions of the public, and get them to come out so we know that at the other end our athletes will be taken care of," said Davis.

The Hockey Heroes team included Cam Neely, Bryan Trottier, "King" Richard Brodeur, Tiger Williams, Russ Courtnall, Geoff Courtnall, Jyrki Lumme, Mark Lofthouse and Gino Odjick from the NHL. Other players included Nancy Drolet and Danielle Dube of the 1998 women’s Olympic hockey team, World Cup downhiller Rob Boyd, and speed skater Gaetan Boucher.

The Hollywood North Stars included Howie Meeker, the Hanson Brothers, Larry and Willy from Jack FM, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, Steve Darling and Jay Janover of BCTV, John Mann of the Spirit of the West, Brent Johnson, Lui Passaglia and Cameron Legault of the B.C. Lions, Mark Torlay of Mountain FM, Barney Bentall, UBC goalie Chris Levesque, Whistler hockey player Chuck Blaylock, Michelle Stafford and John Enos from The Young and the Restless, snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, Craig Northey from The Odds, Jackson Davies of Beachcombers, sports writer Gary Mason and comics Peter Kelamis, Jamie Hutchinson and Brent Bull.

For more information on the Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge, visit www.seatoskyhockey.com.




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