By Jeff Paterson
Maybe the timing is just right. Perhaps it's the pick-me-up the Canucks need at this moment. For one night, at least, the Canucks don't have to worry about putting the puck in the net to be considered winners. No, for one of the few nights during the hockey season, the Canucks aren't really even 'the story'. And for this one night, that's exactly the way it should be.
The Canucks will once again do their part for charity Wednesday night at the 2006 Sports Celebrities Festival at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver where they'll be on stage, but they won't be centre stage. This is a night to celebrate all that is good and right on the Vancouver sports scene and a night to salute some of the best young - and inspirational -- athletes in this province.
The Sports Celebrities Festival is one of the biggest fund raisers of the year supporting both the Canucks for Kids Fund and Special Olympics BC. Last year more than $250,000 was raised to help those worthwhile charities.
I had the very good fortune to attend last year's event along with 600 others. The place was packed and there was enough energy in that room to light up the new scoreboard at General Motors Place. It really was a remarkable night and one that anyone who was lucky enough to be there won't soon forget.
The entire Canucks organization along with representatives from the BC Lions, Whitecaps, Canadians, past and present Olympians and BC Sports Hall of Fame inductees are all part of the event. But there is no question that the real stars of the show are the Special Olympians.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house after an amazing 10 minute video was shown during last year's Festival. The video documented the achievements and accomplishments of so many of the Special Olympians who put in countless hours of training and a night like this is one of the few occasions they get for glory. And you can see on their faces how excited they are to be there in the company of the Canucks.
They don't care that Brendan Morrison is struggling right now or that Roberto Luongo
probably should have stopped the Red Wings' third goal. All that matters to the Special Olympians, who are each accompanied onto the stage and introduced along with a Canuck player, is that on that night they're on equal footing with their heroes. And as you can imagine, they're greeted by a standing ovation from the sold out crowd.
On this night, the struggles the Canucks are having scoring these days don't compare to what the Special Olympians have overcome in their lives. You see the joy on their faces and hear the emotion in their voices when they talk about what getting to compete in the Special Olympics means whether it's on the track, on the ice or in the swimming pool.
On this night, you understand what makes these athletes so special. They may not have been dealt the best cards in the game of life, but they certainly haven't folded. Instead, they've sought the opportunity to follow a passion and to see how far they can go with the talents they have been given. It's not about winning and it's certainly not about money. It's about having the chance to participate and compete and to find out just how good they can be at their chosen sport. And you find out at an event like this just how good many of the Special Olympians are.
Sure, things aren't going the Vancouver Canucks way these days. It's never fun when you're working hard and not seeing the desired results. They'll address the issues at practice over the next few days and try to snap out of their funk on Friday against St. Louis. But if they really want to put their problems in perspective all they have to do is show up at tonight's Sports Celebrities Festival.
And after hearing the speeches tonight, Alain Vigneault might consider asking a few of the Special Olympians give his pre-game pep talk before the Canucks battle the Blues.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org