Appropriately enough, the Canuck Alumni arrived in Nanaimo last Saturday afternoon (Feb. 5th) to find themselves being examined by a team of Vancouver Island's finest Emergency Services First Responders; firefighters, ambulance personnel, hospital emergency room attendants and the like. But it had nothing to do with recent injuries or aging bodies. It was all in support of the first-ever "Hockey For Life" on-ice fund-raiser, benefitting Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Foundation and B.C. Children's Hospital.
Appropriately, the Alumni were also there to help pay tribute to another of their NHL Alumni members whose name is synonymous with the words 'hockey' and 'Nanaimo' - the late NHL referee Lloyd Gilmour. Flanked by an RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces honour guard, members of the Gilmour family were on hand to watch as the banner bearing his name - a black-and-white striped replica jersey complete with NHL crests dating from Lloyd's days as one of the league's senior on-ice officials - became the first-ever memorial banner raised into the rafters of Frank Crane Arena.
Prior to the game with the First Responders, Alumni members had time to mingle with the large crowd that had turned out for the pre-game tailgate party on the plaza at Beban Park, signing autographs, posing for pictures, even - in one case - reminiscing with long-lost classmates about high school days in Manitoba! B.C. hockey legends Phil Maloney and Bernie Pascal made the trip in from their respective Island homes to be introduced as the honorary co-coaches for the Alumni squad, which also featured Islanders Doug Bodger (Cowichan Valley) and Gary Bromley (now living in Victoria). With Ken Berry skating alongside Dave Bruce and Sean Crowther; Wayne Van Dorp centreing Phil von Sefenelli and Garry Monahan, the defensive corps of Bodger, Rick Amann, Larry Melnyk and Danny Clark still had their work cut out for them, helping protect Mark "Spider" Lake in the nets.
Chris Oddleifson and Ernie Dougherty made sure of the eventual 7-4 winning score ... thanks, in part, to the unbiased officiating of Alumnus ref Stan Vyse.
Bottom line on the night: it provided over $14,000 to support Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital, a fun night for the fans, a long-overdue tribute to a well-respected pillar of the hockey fraternity, and further proof that the various front-line emergency agencies can work together to help benefit their local community ... all thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Vancouver Canuck Alumni.
Oh ... and two points for the visitors, as well.
The Vancouver Canucks Alumni and the Hockey For Life organizers would like to thank the generous volunteers who made the events possible including (but not limited to) Joe Lindia, Jeff Miguez, Damian Lang, Deanna McLaren, Brenda Rositano, John Erikson, Jana Brock, and Wendy MacLeod.
Contributed by John Ashbridge