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Joe Kocur Switches Sports For Good Cause

by Joshua Berenter / Detroit Red Wings

HIGHLAND, Mich -- Hockey players aren't used to rain delays.

But unfortunately, the Red Wings players and alumni, along with the other 3,000-plus people in attendance at the 2016 Joe Kocur Celebrity Charity Softball Series on Saturday had to endure an unrelenting rain storm which put a damper on an otherwise fantastic event.

Because of the rain, the eighth annual event—which normally consists of three games—was delayed, forcing event organizers to cancel the second game of the day, driving fans and players alike to huddle under tents, umbrellas and any shelter they could find.

Darren McCarty was one of the most sought after celebrities in attendance during the 2016 Joe Kocur Celebrity Charity Softball Series on Saturday at Duck Lake Pines Park in Highland, Mich. (Photo by Josh Berenter/Detroit Red Wings)

The rain, however, didn't stop Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and players like Dylan Larkin, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith, Darren Helm and Steve Ott, as well as Wings alumni like Kocur, Darren McCarty, Jiri Fischer, Kris Draper and others from giving autographs, taking pictures and interacting with adoring fans.

The rain also didn’t stop a record number of people from attending the event in support of the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children, which gives back to the local community through a collaboration with children's charities throughout Southeastern Michigan.

The softball event is the foundation’s signature event and is championed through the efforts of an all-volunteer committee and through the kind donations of local sponsors and donors.

And while the fans were beneficiaries of coveted autographs and photos with their favorite NHL stars, the biggest beneficiaries were the charities that received the proceeds from Saturday’s event, which eclipsed an estimated $100,000, adding to the $200,000-plus already raised this year by the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children.

The benefitting charities included Wings of Mercy East Michigan, F.A.R. Therapeutic Arts and Recreation, The Huron Valley Special Olympics, Play Like Jackson Foundation, Team Kendal Kidz, Lakeland High School Public Service Scholarship and this year’s special honoree, Jackets 4 Jackson.

“When we started our foundation eight years ago we wanted to find a way to give back to the community,” Kocur said to West Oakland news outlet, Spinal Column. “We had friends, we have businesses, we had everything that we felt we needed to give back to the community. We are raising money for families that are going through some hard times.”

Besides the Red Wings players and alumni in attendance, local media personalities like Fox 2’s Amy Andrews, actress Erin Cummings, FOX Sports Detroit’s Darren Eliot and WXYZ’s Brad Galli also participated, and the event’s final game was called by 97.1 The Ticket’s on-air personalities Jamie Samuelsen, Bob “Wojo” Wojnowski and Mike “Stoney” Stone.

But the most popular celebrity in attendance Saturday was Dave Coulier, otherwise known as everyone’s favorite ‘Uncle Joey’ from the 90s sitcom, “Full House.”

·     "This is my fourth one, and they're expecting big things from me now," Dave Coulier jokingly said on Saturday before taking the field. "They see I have the ability to trip myself and to let ground balls go right by me. So I think at this point, they're expecting more a comedy show than a softball performance." (Photo by Josh Berenter/Detroit Red Wings)

Coulier, a St. Clair Shores native, took a break from filming the second season of the spinoff “Fuller House,” and took a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Detroit just to be part of Kocur’s annual softball series.

“I’m from the Detroit area. It’s my community. It’s home,” Coulier said when asked why it was important for him to come back and participate during such a busy time in his career. “Whenever I say I’m going home, people know I’m going to Detroit, so it’s nice to be able give something back to the local community.”

Coulier, who played in his fourth Kocur charity softball event Saturday, said he is always happy to contribute to charity functions that benefit his hometown community, especially when they’re hosted by the Red Wings.

“They’re a great group of guys and they’re always so willing to step up and give back to the community,” Coulier said about the current and former Red Wings in attendance Saturday. “The simple thing is we’re out here having fun and we’re helping people at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds.”

When the rain finally let up after about three hours of a torrential downpour, Coulier was placed on a team with Kocur, McCarty, Draper and other former Wings Kirk Maltby and Jason Woolley, as well as a few former MLB players.

On the other side of the diamond, the current Red Wings players filled most of the opposing roster for the game everyone was waiting for, including Larkin who said he was honored to receive an invitation to participate in such an amazing event.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a special event, obviously,” Larkin said. “A lot of people came out, and even though it’s raining, everyone’s in good spirits and it’s for a good cause. I’m just happy to be a part of it this year.”

Larkin and his teammates were happy to be in attendance Saturday to give themselves one last fun-filled summer activity before turning their full attention to the upcoming 2016-17 season.

Coulier, who still avidly follows the team, said he’s excited to see the Wings begin the season and see how they respond to losing veteran Pavel Datsyuk.

“Every team is cyclical. You lose a guy like Pavel Datsyuk, and it’s tough to fill that void,” Coulier said. “There aren’t Pavel Datsyuk’s just walking into your training camp every year. So that’s a big void to fill.

“But they will, they’ll fill that void in different ways. It’s a building process and this is an incredible organization. We’ve seen what they’ve done throughout history. And they’ll build and keep building. There’s a lot of pride here, and they’ll be a competitive team again.

Coulier said he’s also excited about the transformation of downtown Detroit, including the opening of Little Caesars Arena in 2017.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I think Joe Louis Arena is the third-oldest building in the league. So it’s nice to have a rejuvenation. It’s great for the city, it’s great for the team and it’s great for the local economy because it’s bringing jobs in. And who doesn’t want to play in a brand new arena.”

At the end of the day, despite the rain, the event drew a record crowd and raised a record amount of money for deserving charities, proving to be a huge success once again. And Kocur and everyone involved with his foundation were the ones to thank.

“He’s got a big heart. He’s not a guy who just talks about it, he does it,” Coulier said about Kocur. “Joe is the backbone of this, and he’s the reason we’re all here and he’s the conduit for all this money that’s going to charity. He’s an upstanding, amazing member of this community.”

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