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For the love of the game

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

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Photo by Andy Devlin.

When they say "shotgun start" at a golf tournament, you don't necessarily think they mean it in a literal sense.

But in this particular case it was more fact than fiction when a military howitzer signaled the start of the Edmonton Oilers Charity Golf Tournament at Blackhawk Golf Club, Monday.

“Today is the first-ever Edmonton Oilers Charity Golf Tournament, all in support of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation,” said Natalie Minckler, Executive Director of the EOCF.

“We’re out here at beautiful Blackhawk Golf Course, we’ve got our current roster guys all out here, we’ve got about 10 Oilers alumni playing as well, a full roster of partners, corporate people out here, and we’re just delighted that everybody’s able to join us for such a great day.”

As the first fundraising event for the 2015-16 season, presented by WorleyParsonsCord, the inaugural golf tournament saw proceeds directed to the EOCF.

“Certainly the response from our players and our alumni and corporate partners is that they’re delighted to be with us today. It’s just a great community event from all perspectives and a great cause: raising money for the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation,” said Minckler.

Established in 2001, the EOCF has contributed more than $28 million to over 2,800 charities, community groups and minor hockey programs.

With a focus on supporting education and health and wellness for youth in Oil Country, the EOCF upholds the goal of helping to eradicate social issues while finding long-term solutions to improve the community.

“The Foundation, as I’ve found out quickly here in Edmonton, is a really important part of our organization,” said Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers Head Coach.

“Our community and the work that it does with our support — the players, the management team, the coaches — it’s really, really important, and there’s a lot of groups and individuals in need that benefit from it, so it’s something to be proud of.”

With training camp just days away, a full roster of Oilers players came out to participate.

“The Foundation has had an impact — a very positive impact — in this community and we’re always looking to do more of that,” said Bob Nicholson, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group.

“There are 23 players here today — that’s a big statement. They’ve stepped up and they’re here today.”

Photo by Andy Devlin.

Organized into groups of four, the event participants played 18 holes of “step-aside scramble,” — a variation of “Florida Scramble,” where the golfer whose ball chosen for each shot has to sit out the next stroke.

Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked forward to stepping onto the green one more time before the local season comes to an end.

“It should be good, most of the time these events are fun, and it’s fun to interact with guys outside of your team,” he said.

Having picked up the sport a few years ago himself, it’s now become an element of a three-fold off-season fitness regime for the six-foot-one player and his teammates.

“We do it as much as we can throughout the year,” said Nugent-Hopkins.

“Obviously in Edmonton we can’t do it for too long but sometimes on the road we’ll try to get a round in if we’re somewhere nice. But for sure, in the summer, it’s a mix of workout, skate and golf — those are the three main parts of the summer I think for most guys.”

Last season, the EOCF had a successful year of giving, investing over $3.1 million into the community.

“I think (the event) creates a positive atmosphere about everything going on. We love giving back as much as we can and getting involved in stuff like this, it’s always fun,” added Nugent-Hopkins.

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