The third consecutive year of the Keane Celebrity Hockey Classic is in the books, and what a successful event it was. The tournament took place at the MTS IcePlex on Thursday night, with the draft taking place the previous night. Hockey alumni players filled the building with big names like Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, Lanny McDonald, Eric Lindros and Wendel Clark to entertain the community of Winnipeg, all for a great cause.
“It’s always well represented,” said Clark. “There are lot of good guys here, it’s a lot of fun. It’s well supported. Wherever we can raise money by playing the game of hockey, everybody in Canada loves doing it, so it’s a great way [for us] to help out.”
Dwayne Green, Executive Director of the Winnipeg Jest True North Foundation, says the success from this year’s tournament will be tough to beat next year.
“Each year it’s gotten bigger and better,” said Green. “The support of the province and the companies involved has been incredible. The 18 teams raised in excess of $375,000, and they all did this for the two charities involved which is the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation and Continuity Care. They get the opportunity to play with some of their childhood heroes. It's an unbelievable experience to be able to see these "Joe's" on the ice playing with the pros. It is a very good experience for everyone involved.”
The participating companies had to raise a minimum set amount in order to enter their team in the tournament. Each team drafted one of the hockey alumni players to join their roster. The team that raised the most money got to play in the final game against all of the NHL alumni players.
Tickets were just $10 for the public to come down and watch the all-day tournament and catch a few of their own childhood heroes take to the ice for charity. The stands filled up quickly for the final Alumni game vs. Team Richardson at 5:15pm.
“We’ve had a lot of public support with people wanting to come to watch the event,” said Green. “Anytime you can provide an opportunity for people to come watch hockey and see some NHL-Greats is nice for us to be able to give that to the public. It’s not just to watch the game but it’s also a good feeling for them to know that the money they pay is being used towards doing good in our province.”
There were laughs and high-fives all around as the game went on. Even Winnipeg Jets Head Coach, Claude Noel went top-shelf on Team Alumni, which brought people to their feet cheering. The game ended in a 3-3 tie, with no shootout.
“There is a great sense of community here in Winnipeg, something you don’t see it in certain parts of the world.” said Lindros. “I don’t think enough can be said about the people who put the time into getting something like this up and running."
So where will all the money that was raised from this successful event end up?
“We split some of the proceeds with Continuity Care,” said Green. “And as far as our portion goes, some of it will go towards our Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy and some will go into our grant funding. We put a lot of it into our allocation of funds which we distribute amongst our own programs and to several other youth charities around Manitoba."
So, the 2012 Keane Celebrity Hockey Classic is in the books. We’ll have to wait until next year to find out which hockey legends will come out next to help raise money for Manitoba.
“It’s a lot of fun and the best part is, at the end of the day, you’re playing hockey, something you grew up loving to do and still love to do. It’s a win-win. It’s been a great, great day.”-smiled Lindros.