For the Ottawa Senators, it's a signal that hockey is just around the corner.
But ask captain Daniel Alfredsson
and he'll tell you there's a much bigger cause behind the 18th edition of the annual Bell/Senators Charity Golf Classic, which was played earlier today at the Kanata Golf & Country Club.
The $115,000 in funds raised at the event by the Sens Foundation and its title sponsor were directed toward Project s.t.e.p., which address youth addiction issues in Ottawa, and the early identification and intervention program at the Royal Ottawa Foundation For Mental Health.
"We all know the real reason why everybody signs up for this," said Alfredsson, a spokesman for the Royal Ottawa's 'You Know Who I Am' campaign. "It’s for the community and making it a better community. We’ve always done a good job of making sure it’s fun and the Foundation does a great job of organizing this whole event. All in all, it’s a really good day."
But as Alfredsson pointed out, while progress in the fight against mental health issues is being made, the battle is merely just beginning.
"Mental health is tough to talk about," he said prior to teeing off with his teammates at Kanata Lakes. "We're off to a good start, I think, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We feel that people are definitely talking about mental health more. It’s not a taboo thing and people feel good about helping it and being public about it, not just giving a donation and not promoting it. That’s been the biggest thing and the most rewarding thing."
Alfredsson, whose younger sister, Cecilia, suffers from general anxiety disorder, has been a tireless spokesman for the Royal Ottawa over the last five years.
"Daniel has been the catalyst to opening the door to conversation about mental illness," said Andree Steel, the interim president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Foundation.
Senators defenceman Chris Phillips
and his wife, Erin, who have been active supporters of Project s.t.e.p., said the the local initiative has led to the opening of residential treatment centres and education programs that "are going to make a huge difference."
"We’re proud to be a part of this and see this get going and change lives," said the veteran blueliner. "We're very excited that the Sens foundation is behind it and so are our major sponsors. In the end, these places need money and (this helps) provide that funding."
Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson expressed gratitude for the support the event receives.
"On behalf of the Sens Foundation, I want to thank our sponsors and guests for supporting these great causes," she said. "It's a focus of the Sens Foundation to raise awareness about youth addictions and mental health. It's hard to believe one in five people in Canada suffer from some form of mental illness and, of the teens who commit suicide every year, more than 60 per cent were addicted to drugs or alcohol.
"Thanks to events like this we are able to make a significant contribution to support two great initiatives focused on helping youth in our community in the area of treatment, education and prevention."