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Oilers reporters suit up in charity tournament

by edmontonoilers.com staff / Edmonton Oilers
Tom Gazzola passes the puck in last year's tournament. Photo provided.

Oilers TV Reporter and Host Tom Gazzola and edmontonoilers.com Head Writer Chris Wescott are among a handful of local media personalities participating in the third annual Dirty Birds Charity Hockey Tournament this weekend.

The tournament is a two-day event, including a silent auction this Friday. The tournament takes place on Saturday, helping raise awareness and funds for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. In its first two years, the event raised over $200,000.

Both Gazzola and Wescott participated last year. This will be Gazzola’s third tournament. A member of the Oilers coaching staff, Video Coordinator Myles Fee, will also be playing in his first tournament.

In 2013, the goal was to raise $15,000. The tournament ended up raising $68,000, which was matched by CN Miracle for a total of around $140,000. Last year, the tournament raised $100,212, on its own, without being matched.

“The Dirty Bird Hockey Tournament means so much to my family and every family impacted by paediatric neurosurgery at the Stollery,” said Melissa Da Silva of the Neurosurgery Kids Fund. “This tournament is a true testament to how generous and compassionate people can be. A group of people who came together to create something extraordinary to help our children and families. We give our deepest heartfelt gratitude to everyone who organizes, donates and participates. The smiles at camp this year will be because of you!

Chris Wescott skates to the bench in last year's tournament. Photo provided.

This event began when a local men’s hockey team decided to play for more than just fun, choosing to support a great cause.

“This tournament is more than hockey. It's about the friendship the Dirtybirds have created with the kids and families of the Neurosurgery Kids Fund,” said Chris Branco, captain of the Dirty Birds and one of the founding members of the event. Branco, and his wife Julie, created the charity tournament.

“Where this tournament is today is truly amazing. Never once did I think that in two years, over $200,000 would be donated,” Branco said. “The support from the community, family, friends and of course my wife Julie, who has put in countless hours, is what makes this a successful event.”

In addition to the Oilers staffers participating, Dustin Nielson (TSN 1260), Ryan Jespersen (630 CHED) and Min Dhariwal (CBC) will suit up for the cause.

Friday night’s silent auction will take place at Average Joes Sports Bar in Sherwood Park (390 Baseline Road), at 7 p.m. Auction items include a Wayne Gretzky stick, a Jordan Eberle stick and jersey, a Taylor Hall jersey and a Connor McDavid Erie Otters and World Junior Championship jersey, all signed.

Tickets are $20 at the door.

The tournament will take place on Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. at Argyl Arena (9933 63 Avenue Northwest, Edmonton).

This year, prior to the auction or tournament, over $67,000 has been raised.

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