Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) will honour the thousands of men and women who serve Canada at their annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night on Saturday, January 30 during the Maple Leafs game versus the Vancouver Canucks.
MLSE has invited more than 360 Canadian Forces personnel from CFB Borden, 8 Wing Trenton, HMCS York and Land Force Central Area, many of whom have served in Afghanistan, to watch the game from one of Air Canada Centre’s gondolas. In addition, Maple Leafs season seat holders have generously donated hundreds of tickets for Canadian troops.
“On behalf of MLSE, we’re honoured to recognize and host the courageous men and women who have made tremendous personal sacrifices to serve our country,” said Tom Anselmi, MLSE’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer. “MLSE is committed to being a leader in the community and initiatives such as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night help reinforce this value.
“We want to recognize and thank our season seat holders who have teamed up with us to generously donate their tickets to our Tickets for Troops program.”
Prior to the start of the game, five Canadian Forces personnel will rappel from Air Canada Centre's rafters to centre ice. Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter J. Natynczyk will participate in the ceremonial puck drop along with three distinguished members of the Canadian Forces.
Maple Leafs fans with tickets to the January 30 game are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. to be part of the pregame festivities.
As part of an effort to support Canada’s Troops, MLSE will make available the Leafs Song “Free to Be” sung by five-time Juno award winner Alan Frew, as an iTunes download on www.mlse.com
. The cost of a download is $1.29. Net proceeds of all sales of Free to Be
between 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 30 to Tuesday, February 2 at 7 p.m. will benefit the Military Families Fund. The Leafs Song can be heard prior to the start of every Leafs game and on most of the team’s television broadcasts.
Frew, the voice of Canadian group Glass Tiger, will also sing a live rendition of Free to Be during the Leafs TV pregame show at Air Canada Centre’s Gate 5 Studio and at centre ice prior to the start of the Leafs game.
For the past three years, Anselmi, along with Leafs and NHL Alumni, have travelled to Afghanistan on a goodwill mission to visit Canada's soldiers. The Stanley Cup has accompanied them on all missions. Last year’s mission to Afghanistan included Frew and his bandmates from Glass Tiger. The song idea for Free to Be was developed by Anselmi and Frew, who were inspired by their visit with Canada’s troops serving in Afghanistan. The words and music were written by Frew and Stephan Moccio.
“We live in the greatest country in the world, and we wanted a song that emotionally connected Leafs fans from coast to coast and tapped into every Canadian’s national pride. Alan shared the same passion for our team and he understood exactly what we needed to achieve with a new anthem. I think we nailed it with this song and judging by the reaction of our fans, they agree,” Anselmi added.
All fans attending the January 30 Maple Leafs game will receive a Free to Be collector song sheet. A Canada song version of Free to Be will also be available for download on iTunes. For more information, visit www.mlse.com
The Military Families Fund was created in April 2007 by General Rick Hillier, the former Chief of Defence Staff, to assist military families faced with unforeseen and often immediate needs that have resulted due to conditions of service. The fund continues to grow through the generous contributions of Canadians, corporations and other organizations, adding a new vehicle to support Canadian Forces members and their families.
The Toronto Raptors will hold their Canadian Forces Appreciation Night on Sunday, January 31 during their game against the Indiana Pacers. The Toronto Marlies will also recognize the Canadian Forces on Salute the Troops Day Saturday, March 21 at their game against the Abbotsford Heat at Ricoh Coliseum.