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Heartfelt salute to troops on Canadian Forces Night

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators

It’s a special night for a special group of dedicated individuals who make all Canadians proud.

Saturday’s matchup between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres wasn’t just another hockey game at Scotiabank Place. Rather, it was a night to salute the troops as the Sens played host to the eighth annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.

More than 3,300 military personnel and their families were in attendance at the game, extending a tradition the Senators launched back in 2003. While other National Hockey League teams across Canada have picked up the torch, Saturday’s gathering at Scotiabank Place marked “the largest CF appreciation night in Canadian professional sports history,” said Senators president Cyril Leeder.

“We do this to recognize and honour our forces and their dedication, courage and professionalism in representing all Canadians as they work to bring peace and democracy around the globe,” added Leeder.

And that recognition and gratitude is most appreciated by Canadian Forces personnel who continue to put themselves in harm’s way around the planet.

“Our men and women (in the military) know when they sign up that they’re going to go somewhere, do something for Canada, but they’re going to accept all those risks,” Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Chief of Defence Staff, said in addressing a pre-game reception at Scotiabank Place. “All they ask for is recognition, to know that those people back home appreciate the sacrifices that indeed all of them make. And that’s why tonight is so special.

“This is the eighth time you’ve done this, and the Senators have been a leader, not only in the NHL but in all of professional sports, in providing us with this opportunity. It’s equally important, to have our families here, because those families share the risks. They’re there supporting us.”

Military personnel and their families are able to attend the game courtesy of tickets provided by corporate sponsors of CF Night and donated through the Senators’ Ticket For Troops program and by Senators Sports & Entertainment employees.

Though he was unable to attend the game, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been “the driving force” behind the organization’s commitment to Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.

“If it wasn’t for Eugene, we probably wouldn’t be here this evening,” said Leeder. “His commitment to the Canadian military and Canadian Forces is exemplary.”

In addition to this heartfelt salute to the troops, the Sens Foundation has partnered with corporate supporters of CF Night and the Military Families Fund to build an endowment fund that allows Canadian Forces members and their children to further their education at one of three Algonquin College campuses in Ontario.

A total of 56 bursaries have been awarded since the endowment was launched in 2008. The fund, which received another injection of $100,000 this year, now sits at $666,366. Proceeds from the sale of CF Night related merchandise during the Senators-Sabres game will also be directed toward the endowment.

“it really is all about helping the students,” said Algonquin College president Robert Gillett. “Many people who never would have had a chance to get a post-secondary education are getting one today as a result of this endeavour. And it’s so important that the military families get this opportunity as a result of these efforts.”

Added Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson: “Tonight is another example of how great partners come together to make a big difference.”

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