VOORHEES, N.J. -- A number of NHL players were among the 52 teams that started the 2017 Checking For Charity tournament at Flyers Skate Zone on Friday.
Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, and Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams were three of the NHL players taking part.
The tournament runs through Sunday, with games also being played at Flyers Skate Zone in Pennsauken and the Igloo Ice Rink in Mount Laurel.
"It's a special weekend," said Gaudreau, who was born in Salem, New Jersey, about 40 miles south of Skate Zone. "I've been playing with the same buddies, eight or nine of them on my team, for four or five years now at this tournament. It's always special to help out charities and be part of this weekend."
Gaudreau played for Team Hollydell with Gostisbehere, Flyers forward Mike Vecchione, New York Rangers defensemen Anthony DeAngelo, and Vancouver Canucks goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko. Their team was raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Williams and New York Islanders defenseman Dennis Seidenberg were on Team Ebo Strong, which was raising money for the Ebo Strong Foundation, which supports families dealing with pediatric cancer.
"You can see guys around the League doing things for different charities, different foundations," Gaudreau said. "I started with this six, seven years ago, and there was 20, 30 teams. Now it's picking up more NHL guys, helping charities out, and it's a great cause and a great weekend to be part of."
Also on the team was Gaudreau's younger brother, Matt Gaudreau, 22, who will play this season for Bridgeport, the New York Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate.
"Got to play one season with him at Boston College," Johnny, 23, said. "We're really close, we're only 16 months apart. We don't get to see each other much in the season because Calgary is so far away, don't see my family much. Always special to come back in the summer, play at home, play with him. It's a pretty special time."
All money raised goes to charities, with most of it coming from the $1,500 entry fee for each team in levels that range from pro to 50-plus.
Phil Corradino, Checking For Charity's chief financial officer, was one of the founding members of the event, which started in 2009 as an eight-team men's league tournament.
"We were in the locker room one day after a skate and we said, 'Let's put together a small tournament and raise a coupe bucks for charity,'" Corradino said. "We got a couple men's teams together and raised a couple bucks. … We raised probably $7,000 that year, most from team registration fees."
Now partnered with Legacy Global Sports, the event has raised more than $355,000 for about 110 different charities and has a West Coast tournament that will be held Aug. 25-27 in Beaverton, Oregon.
"The gross will be about $75,000 this year," Corradino said. "Every team plays for their own charity. We give them the opportunity to raise funds as well. Every team has an entry fee, and every dollar they raise above their entry fee goes to their charity. So that takes the burden off of us to raise funds. Everybody is playing for a great cause. Being able to cut even a $1,500 check for a team … in a lot of cases that's a big deal and it's pretty cool."