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Alumni hit links to raise charity dollars

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
Oakhurst Golf & Country Club - Photo by Dan Mannes

CLARKSTON, Mich. – The stereotypical image of retirees soaking in the sun’s rays on the fairways of a golf course couldn’t have been more accurate on Monday afternoon as the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association hosted its annual golf outing at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club.

The event featured over 30 groups of golfers with at least a dozen alumnus. Proceeds from the outing are being donated to the Red Wings Alumni Foundation for Cancer Research and Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that offers scholarships and assistance to the families of soldiers disabled or killed in the line of duty.

The 18-hole scramble was held in conjunction with Sunday night’s President’s Ball Gala, a biennial tradition within the Alumni Association that gives the members a chance to reconvene and socialize while raising money for a good cause.

Among the many Wings’ greats who attended the gala and played in the outing including Alex Delvecchio, Dino Ciccarelli, Manny Legace, Nick Libett, John Ogrodnick, Paul Ysebaert, Mickey Redmond, and Joe Kocur, the current alumni president.

Joe Kocur - Photo by Dan Mannes

“Every two years we have our President’s Ball,” Kocur said. “We all get together and we don’t all get to get together very often ... anytime you can raise money for charity and do it and have fun it’s a great time.”

Kocur has had a unique history with the association, as he spent some time playing with the alumni before he officially ended his NHL career. In fact, the forward went on to win two Stanley Cups in three seasons with the Wings before rejoining the alumni.

“I first started skating with the alumni in 1996 when I didn’t have a job,” Kocur recalled. “And then I went back to the Red Wings and I started skating with them probably about five, six years ago.”

Founded in 1959, the association typically plays in over 20 charity hockey games throughout the year and, unlike some other alumni organizations, none of the members of the Wings group get paid for their participation. For Kocur, the rewards of touring with the alumni team have nothing to do with money.

“It’s always the camaraderie and being with the players who you grew up with, who you played with,” he said. “You used to go on the ice and it was a job, you had to work hard, you had to battle all the time and now we go on the ice, we laugh, we have fun with people, and we’re very successful doing it.”

The success of the organization is measured by how much the alumni contribute to charities. According to George Bowman, secretary of the association, the last President’s Ball and golf outing raised approximately $40,000.

President’s Ball - Photo by Dan Mannes

Sunday night’s President’s Ball gave guests the opportunity to bid on memorabilia in both a silent and live auction. In addition to autographed jerseys, pucks and photographs, the auctions also featured a golf driver used and signed by Kid Rock and a NASCAR racing helmet autographed by Bobby Labonte and Roger Penske.

Michigan native and former “Full House” star Dave Coulier entertained guests with a comedy sketch after the President’s Ball.

As guests mingled Sunday, former Detroit goalie Eddie Mio shared the story of his involvement with the association. Within a year of his retirement in 1986, Mio was recruited by Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay.

“They needed a goaltender,” Mio joked. “They couldn’t get a young goaltender and at that time I was young. I joined in ’88 and have been part of it right since Day 1.”

Dave Coulier - Photo by Dan Mannes

Raising money for the University of Michigan Hospital was especially meaningful for many of the alumni, as their fellow member Shawn Burr is currently undergoing treatment at the Ann Arbor facility for a bone marrow cancer that has required intensive chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

Having successfully battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1988, Libett – a former Wings’ captain – understands how meaningful the donations to the Alumni Foundation for Cancer Research can be for someone in Burr’s situation.

“I went through it myself and UM took care of me, and it’s just good,” Libett said. “Shawn is in good hands and hopefully he pulls through.”

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