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Sizzlin' Summer Showdown

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The countdown is on to the start of the 2008-09 NHL season, but hockey fans in Manitoba were treated to some early highlights from their favourite superstars Thursday night.

The third annual Sizzlin’ Summer Showdown, a charity hockey game organized by former WHLer Todd Davison prior to losing his battle with cancer in 2006, took place in Selkirk, Manitoba to raise money for cancer patients within the province and a gaggle of NHLers took part.

Team Black’s roster included Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Nigel Dawes of the New York Rangers, Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators and a trio of Vancouver Canucks’ hopefuls in Nolan Baumgartner, Shaun Heshka and Jannik Hansen.

Team White’s contingent featured Eric Fehr of the Washington Capitals, Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils, Colton Orr of the New York Rangers and Derek Meech of the 2007-08 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Team White defeated Team Black 10-9 with Winnipeg’s Orr scoring the game winner late in the third period, but no one cared about the final outcome, getting together to celebrate the life of a friend and raise money for a worthy cause was the main agenda.

Some knew Davison well, Dawes has fond memories of battling against him from their days in the WHL, while others couldn’t help but come out regardless of their relationship to him.

Defenceman Nolan Baumgartner, who signed with the Canucks this summer, knew Davison a bit so he jumped at the opportunity to lace up his skates for the game.

“I think a lot of us know somebody, a friend or a family member, who’s had cancer, and it’s a tough disease, so this is something I fully support and it’s great to come out here and play in this,” said Baumgartner.

“It was his dream and belief that Todd could fight that disease and that there’d be a cure for it one day and I think we all believe that and that’s why we come out.”

Baumgartner has been on the ice frequently over the summer, while also taking a few trips including a jaunt down to California to catch some baseball games. Still, it was nice to play a competitive game again, he’s itching to get to training camp to try and earn a spot on Vancouver’s blue-line.

“It’s a month away now and I think we’re all looking forward to it. It’s been a long summer, longer for some others, and I think we’re all excited to get back on the ice and try to make it in the NHL.

“The fun is over now, it’s back to work.”

While one Canucks hopeful was polished Thursday night, it looked like another hasn’t hit the ice much this summer.

“It was only my second time skating in three months so I was a little rough on the edges, but it’s always nice to get back on the ice,” said Jannik Hansen. “It’s nice to get going again and it was a lot of fun out there.”

Hansen has spent the bulk of his summer in weight rooms both in Winnipeg and back home in Denmark, where he spent the month of July.

Like all the players who participated, Hansen’s sights are now set on the start of training camp and the 22-year-old, who played 10 playoff games with the Canucks two seasons ago and appeared in five regular season games last year, thinks this could finally be the year he sticks with the big club.

“We’re still a long way from camp so a lot of things can happen, but it’s just a matter of going in and proving to the coaching staff that they should keep me around there and not in Manitoba.”

All-in-all the charity game, which was paired with a golf tournament the day before, was once again a phenomenal success, with the exception of one minor hiccup. A picture of Vancouver Canucks forward Mason Raymond accompanied Hansen’s profile in the game program, leaving Hansen’s mug out in the cold.

“They messed it up a little, but that’s alright” said Hansen.

Maybe someone thinks Raymond is better looking?

“Yeah, that could be,” laughed Hansen.

Not to be lost in all the talent on the ice, the coaches for Team Black and Team White were Thomas Steen and Scott Arniel. They mined the benches diligently with Arniel’s boys coming out on top.

It was all fun and games, yes, but that doesn’t mean Arniel didn’t gladly accept the winnings from his $20 bet with Steen.

“Make sure that makes it into your story,” said the head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, “Arniel 1, Steen 0.”
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