The first, that staff at Canucks Sports & Entertainment have begun working four-day weeks in response to the NHL lockout, is true.
The second, that general manager Mike Gillis has taken up a second job as a paperboy, is false.
Confusion reigned at the crack of dawn when Gillis, alongside assistant general manager Laurence Gilman, stood at the corner of West Georgia and Burrard, newspapers in hand.
Times are a little tough now, sure, but Gillis and Gilman were taking part in the 16th annual Raise-A-Reader Day in support of literacy, not hawking the Vancouver Sun for personal gain.
Coach Alain Vigneault, senior advisor Stan Smyl, mascot Fin and others joined in the fun, each trading Thursday’s newspaper for a donation, with all proceeds allocated to the Canucks for Kids Fund granted to the Canucks Family Education Centre.
As the prim and proper business class scurried past, some with florescent running shoes clashing with their formal attire, all with java in one hand and a phone in the other, Gillis and Gilman tried to steal a moment of their attention.
A friendly competition brewed between the two early on and at final count, Gillis was ahead roughly $40 dollars. He also posed for more pictures and signed more autographs, all while laxly keeping one hand in his pocket and the other one on a newspaper.
Gilman, on the other hand, was the more aggressive of the pair, double-fisting papers all morning; he hooted, he hollered, he even tried to sell a newspaper to an English bulldog named Kobe.
“Laurence is kissing bulldogs and I’m raising money,” laughed Gillis. “It’s kind of the routine we have, I do all the work and he’s goofing around with the bulldog.”
Kobe did not buy a paper, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from Gilman, who displayed impeccable sales technique despite never having worked as a paperboy. He strung tennis racquets as a kid, while Gillis worked hockey camps.
Rivalry aside, both members of the Canucks brass were fan favourites helping generate much needed funds to support family and children’s literacy programs in BC.
Last year’s Raise-A-Reader campaign generated more than one million dollars and if everyone continues to be as generous as the gentleman who handed Gillis $20 and didn’t even take a paper, a new benchmark will be reached this year. And next year. And the year after that.
“A lot of people are very generous and it’s nice to see,” said Gillis. “It’s a very important cause and the Canucks Education Fund is a great benefactor. This is a great opportunity for us to give back and make sure that young people have an opportunity they might not normally get. Children’s literacy is a huge issue and this is a great chance to participate and make a difference here in British Columbia.”
Gillis grew up as a reader and he raised three kids, Max, Kate and Spencer, to be readers as well. It was all Dr. Seuss all the time for Gillis, who enjoyed it before he understood it, then passed the tongue twisters onto his kids.
“I loved Green Eggs and Ham and my kids did too.”
Jean Rasmussen, executive director of the Canucks Family Education Centre, is excited that because of the generosity of strangers, others will have the opportunity to experience literature at its best, like Sam-I-Am’s quest to get the Cat in the Hat to try his green eggs and ham.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” smiled Rasmussen, impressed at the overall support the event received. “It takes everyone, it’s everyone’s business and it’s everyone’s responsibility to give back. Plus it’s a lot of fun. This is our 10th year, we turn 10 on October 3rd, and getting out here and talking to the people who are making these donations to the families and children in British Columbia, it’s so rewarding. It’s amazing to do this.”