by Rebecca Virgin
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Toronto -- The Leafs alumni came out of retirement for one night only, not to play hockey, but to serve up some gourmet food and play a round of poker.
|Wendel does his best impression of a server |
The 2nd Annual Leafs Alumni Dinner took place at Alice Fazooli's Italian Grill on Monday night. The alumni were put to work raising money for the Leafs Fund by serving dinner, which also featured a Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament.
"I don't know if I'd call it work," said alumnus Rick Vaive. "You're just doing a little bit, pouring a little wine, bring the bread, you know when it comes to the big dishes I don't think they're going to let me handle them."
Guests were also treated with the attendance of new Leafs head coach Paul Maurice, who was also in awe of the class of alumni on hand.
"It's been really special for me to sit and see all of these great players," said Maurice. "I'm not going to say this to them, but for a lot of them I've watched them since I was five years old, so there's a lot of great names there and it's really kind of neat."
16 former Leafs were in attendance including Darryl Sittler, Jack Valiquette, Mike Pelyk, Stew Gavin, Rod Seiling, and Johnny Bower.
"This is a wonderful evening for me. It's nice to see so many Maple Leafs fans here for a good cause and it makes me feel good inside to be here," said Bower. "I used to have a coffee shop way back in Saskatchewan so it's easy for me to carry three plates so I had everyone at my table served real quickly and had a real jump on these guys."
Bower wasn't the only alumnus with serving experience, and everyone was just happy to be involved and interacting with the guests.
"It's more fun when you get involved," said Ron Ellis. "Back in the "60s you had to have a second job so I did a little of this in the summers. It stuck with me for sure. These are always very special. We're very proud of our alumni here in Toronto, and every time we can help raise money for the fund then we're glad to be part of it."
The interaction with the players was the highlight of the evening for everyone and nobody noticed it more than "the new guy".
"They are so open and easy with all the people here and so friendly to them," said Maurice. "It's such a great idea, the alumni, but it only works with the right people and they have the connection with the past. When you watch them talk, these are grown men and women talking to their idols, you can see the child in them."
Also included in the dinner was a chance to buy mystery bags stuffed with Leafs goodies, aprons signed by all alumni in attendance, a silent auction, and the chance to win the grand prize, a trip for two to Las Vegas, in the poker tournament.
"You could probably have one of these things every night of the week and fill this place," said Maurice. "It's so much fun but I'm really impressed with the men that come here and do this."
The evening's proceeds will help provide access to sports and recreation opportunities for children and youth, encouraging health and wellness in the community through the charities supported by the Leafs Fund. The more than 170 Leafs Alumni Association members participating at events like this dinner help to raise more than $150,000 a year for the Leafs Fund.