Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alzheimer's Hockey Pro-Am Tournament

Regular readers of my blog will know I quite like hockey. So when I learned of the Scotiabank Pro-Am for Alzheimer's in Leduc I jumped at the chance to volunteer for a worthy cause where I could actually have some fun. As someone who has seen the degenerative loss of those suffering from Alzheimer's I feel that its one of the most worthy causes to support  So that day my efforts were larger than just keeping myself entertained, it was also for Grandma Kaminski and Auntie Marian.

The Pro-Am tourney kicked off with a draft where each team chooses an available NHL alumnus to play on their team. Draft positions were determined by the total dollars raised by each team for Alzheimer's. This years tournament had a strong contingent of former pro's who plied their trade here in Alberta including a ton of Flames from their Stanley Cup year.

Ready to get to work I got to the rink early on Saturday and was given a couple small tasks before being assigned my regular role for the weekend - room attendant. My job was to set-up the rooms for the teams before they get there and make sure they are generally content. So basically, put out Jerseys/Socks for each teams inaugural game, then name tags, waters, fruit, tape, etc as the games progress. It may seem excessive but for each team to play in this tournament they must fund-raise at least $25,000. So very rightfully they get treated like rock stars.

Here is the Journeyman's room prior to their arriving.

The volunteer coordinators and my fellow volunteers were all very organized and professional so we got most of our work done quickly enough to actually watch the hockey.

The skill sets of the players were all over the map and the pro's generally played to the level of the competition.

I didn't interact with the pro's too much but I was very impressed every time I did by their humility and general 'regular guy' presence. You can't go wrong with any of the pro's but I can tell you that if you ever get the chance draft Lanny McDonald or Marty McSorley. They are true gentlemen who tell great stories and make sure their 'boys' have a good time.

The whole weekend just hanging at the rink was great, and it was all for a good cause, so I was content to do my part. But, the event organizers and the NHL Alumni staff really went out of their way to say "Thank You" for volunteering and I got a couple lifetime memories as a perk.

First up - Special Jewelry. 

I got to wear Mike Krushelnyski's 4 Stanley Cup rings including one won as a RedWing. Of course, as a total poser, I went with the tough guy face.

Second Up - Meeting Mr. Hockey.

The tournaments un-official ambassador is Gordie Howe who lost his wife in 2009 from Picks Disease.  Gordie now is no longer a young man so while he always wishes to attend the games the cross country travel can be taxing. When I signed up to volunteer I knew there was a chance that he may show up for the weekend but it was far from a sure thing.  So much to my surprise and elation, he showed up for the ceremonial All Star game to drop the puck. Thankfully it was on my ice surface so I got the chance to meet him and get my picture taken. 

You could tell he appreciated the volunteers. As soon as the camera came out his elbow came up on me. 

As we waited for the All Star game to start I couldn't help but be drawn to Gordie so I stuck around the dressing room. As word got out that Gordie was in the building a lot of the other pro's came through to the dressing room to get an autograph or a picture. Mr. Hockey was still a draw!

As it was the last weekend of the NHL regular season the discussion in the room eventually turned to the playoff run of Gordie's old team, the Detroit Redwings. At that point I realized that with all of the hockey genius in the room, it was myself who had the best understanding of the final games of the season and the playoff implication. Finally, my turn as a Redwings superfan to shine.

Here's one of my new all time favorite pictures: This is me describing to Mr. Hockey, his son Marty and Jeremy Roenick what it would take for Detroit to make the playoffs and how they would be ranked if they won their game that night.

I think I found you a new analyst. Seriously, I work for cheap. Call me.

Already, I am looking forward to next year. If you don't see me on the ice, look for me scurrying around the benches with my camera.

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