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Hope to the homeless

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Dave Babych had a moustache when it was cool the first time around.

He still has the legendary soup strainer – it’s as impressive as ever. His hockey skills remain impressive as well, which fans will find out for themselves this coming weekend.

Babych, who played 1,195 NHL games (409 in Vancouver) and is currently working in player development with the Canucks, is taking part in the fourth annual Hockey Helps the Homeless tournament on November 23, 2012, at UBC Thunderbird Arena in Vancouver.

The 10-team tournament, a fundraiser for outreach partners Covenant House, RainCity Housing and Support Society, Lookout Emergency Aid Society, First United Church, Urban Native Youth Association and Odd Squad Productions, has raised $3.5 million since it began in Toronto in 1996.

Babych has competed in his share of charity tournaments throughout the years, but he said the level of hockey being played to help the homeless gets better every year.

NHL veterans joining in the cause include Kirk McLean, Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams, Garth Butcher, Mark Taylor and Gary Valk. It was also recently announced that Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver Police Chief constable Jim Chu will join in the fun, alongside countless other hockey enthusiasts lacing up their skates.

For Babych, it won’t matter if it’s a former teammate, Joe Blow, a mayor or police chief, if they’re going into the corner, they should be ready for him.

“If they want the puck, they’re going to have to earn it,” laughed 51-year-old Babych. “It might be a bunch of people raising money for the homeless, but you still compete hard.

“I’m really excited to play, this is one of those things that is real tough to say no to. All you have to do is look around Vancouver to see where the money could go; there are a lot of people in need.”

Hockey Helps the Homeless, a volunteer driven charity with games in five cities across Canada, has created such popular events that female tournaments have been added to four cities. This will be the first year Vancouver hosts a female side to the tournament; the four-to-six team round robin event will also play out on November 23rd, with Cammi Granato, the first women ever inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, headlining the pros taking part.

While Granato’s 15-year career ended in 2005, Babych called it quits 12 years ago after playing three playoff games for Ambri-Piotta in the Switzerland National League.

Babych tries to keep his skills sharp by hitting the ice at least once a month, more if his hectic schedule permits. He said it’s tough to say at what level the other alumni will be playing at – “it depends on how you feel” – but that he’s half the player he once was.

To anyone playing in the tournament preparing to skate laps around Babych: good luck.

“Playing at half of what we should we be at is still pretty good, all things considered. It’s just fun being out on the ice, that was always the best part of being a player. And it’ll be nice competing with and against a bunch of successful people willing to support such a great cause.”

Babych’s game may have changed, but with the ultimate intimidator still keeping his stiff upper lip warm, he shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Click here to learn more about Hockey Helps the Homeless and be sure to drop by UBC Thunderbird Arena Friday to catch all the action.

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