Buffalo Sabres alumni traded in hockey sticks for fishing poles May 29 at the Second Annual Fishing Derby.
The event consisted of 28 boats and more than 170 participants competing on Lake Ontario in Olcott, helping to raise money for the Alumni Association’s Scholarship Fund.
“This has really grown in a year,” said Derek Smith. “I think last time we were planning on 20 boats and we sold maybe 12… This year it’s gotten big. I think the word got out that it was a great time because everybody here was at last year’s derby too.”
Alumni, including Iouri Khmylev, Randy Cunneyworth and Mike Robitaille, were on-hand, as well as current players Patrick Kaleta
, Adam Mair and Andrew Peters.
“This was a new experience on Lake Ontario but it was a great day,” said color commentator Harry Neale. “I’ve fished before but never [participated in] any tournaments. It was a delightful crew I was paired with and a lot of fun for everyone involved.”
The derby originated in 2007 after Rob Ray became involved with the Alumni Association.
“Actually I suggested to Razor one day that because he’s an outdoorsy guy that he should come up with an event,” said President of the BSAA, Larry Playfair. “Within weeks he had come up with this… And just like that we had enough boats and people covering us. That’s how it started and it’s been awesome. This year is twice as big as it was last year.”
Winners of the fishing derby were awarded with cash prizes. All participants also received breakfast and lunch at the event.
“Anytime you do this, the No. 1 thing is that it’s always for charity,” Smith said. “The neat thing about it is you can have a lot of fun and still raise a lot of money. This is a new experience for me, I didn’t even want to come last year because I’m not big on the boats or fishing, but I had a great time and I couldn’t wait to come this year…Plus there are 20 of our guys here that you don’t get to see that often, but these events bring us all together.”
The Scholarship Fund is awarded to students in Western New York and Southern Ontario who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study, according to the Web site.
“This is awesome, just looking at all the people that showed up and helped us out,” Playfair said. “What I hope people take away from the event is that our alumni is back out in the community helping where we can. We have so many good guys that want to help and, selfishly for me, I sit back and watch our guys grow in our community.
“It’s great and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”ALUMNI FISHING STORIESHarry Neale
“I remember this place north of Perry Sound in Ontario. We were out on the rowboat casting in the lily pads for the bass. Every time we got a bass we put it on the stringer and hanged it on the back of the boat. After we had about three on the stringer I heard the chain rattling and I thought ‘what’s going on?’ I reached up, pulled the stringer and there was a snapping turtle and he had the fish right in his mouth. We lost our best fish to the snapping turtle who scared the life out of us.”Larry Playfair
“The person with the best fish story is Matthew Barnaby… because that’s all it is. He says he’s got a big fish and he doesn’t. It wasn’t even brought [into shore]. It bounced off his hook once and got close to the boat. It’s a lie is what it is.”Mike Robitaille
“I caught a fish one time when I was young and I wanted to impress my mother so I filled it up with rocks. I opened his mouth up and poured them in. She thought it was a big fish until she went to clean it and then it wasn’t so funny. That’s a pretty bad story… I know.”
“This is only the second time I’ve been fishing. I don’t think I have a story yet. Maybe next year though.”