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Dice & Ice 2011

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard played five NHL seasons before joining the Canucks, so under normal circumstances he’s respected as a veteran.

At the 12th Annual Dice & Ice Benefit, presented by HSBC, the team’s signature fundraising event that supports Canucks Autism Network and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Ballard was a rookie all over again.

The February 10th benefit, hosted by the Canucks for Kids Fund, was a full team affair with each player working a table at the Canucks Casino prior to the wine and dine portion of the evening. Despite never taking part in the event, Ballard was trusted with his own blackjack table, cards, chips and Canucks Bucks and let loose on the public.

“I don’t know what these chips are worth, I’m just going to give them out,” said Ballard, as he dealt his first hand. “And I don’t know what these are, Canucks Bucks? I’m too lazy to count all those.”

It’s not surprising Ballard’s table saw the most action.

Midway through the night pit boss Aaron Rome couldn’t persuade Ballard not to hit on 21, which made winners of almost everyone around them. All Ballard had to say was, “everyone is a winner tonight.”

For a Dice & Ice rookie, he certainly captured the spirit of the event.

This night to remember also included silent and live auctions, featuring rare sports memorabilia, like a Vancouver 2010 Olympics torch autographed by the entire Canadian men’s gold medal winning team, one-of-a-kind experiences, such as a private practice with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and themed gift baskets created by players and their significant others.

Not many Dice & Ice supporters left empty handed, but the biggest winners were two of the franchise’s most important beneficiaries, Canucks Autism Network and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

“This is a significant event for them, last year we granted 1.2 million dollars to Canuck Place and about $800,000 to CAN, and part of those proceeds came from an event like tonight, in addition to our 50/50 money and other events,” said TC Carling, executive director of the Canucks for Kids Fund and vice president of communications & community partnerships for the Canucks.

Established in 1986, the Canucks for Kids Fund has reached communities throughout BC by granting more than 32 million dollars benefiting areas of health and wellness, grassroots hockey and education.

Nothing gets the Canucks excited like playing cards, one of their preferred in-flight activities on road trips, especially when the funds help improve the lives of countless children.

“It’s always a lot of fun coming here and meeting some fans and some great people to raise some money for a great cause,” said Alex Burrows, who boasts “pretty solid” blackjack dealing skills.

“It’s even nicer to be here when you’re a veteran, it’s a lot more fun when you know what to expect. In my first few years you had to go on stage and people would make fun of you and you have to sing or dance so that was a bit awkward, but now that I’m a veteran, it’s a bit more comfortable and you can enjoy the evening a bit more.”

Think again, Burrows.

Although Dice & Ice rookie Ballard was not one of the 10 players showcased in the live auction portion of the night, Burrows and teammates Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Tanner Glass, Mason Raymond, Kevin Bieksa, Daniel and Henrik Sedin were humorously spotlighted in front of all 720 guests.

So much for being comfortable as a veteran.

Hosted by Manny Malhotra, the live auction had each of the 10 players called onto the stage for the corresponding prize they helped auction off. Malhotra had a hockey bag of goodies for each guy and Burrows’ bag included a referee jersey, French/English dictionary and the book “Essential Manners for Men.”

Some of the other gag gifts were a Jersey Shore DVD set for Luongo, a can of gold spray paint for Kesler, a picture of Bieksa for Bieksa, a “mum’s favourite” t-shirt for Henrik and “dad’s favourite” t-shirt for Daniel and a John Deere mini tractor, complete with sound effects, for Raymond.

Follow these links for more information on the Canucks for Kids Fund, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Canucks Autism Network and other Canucks community partnerships.
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