More than 800 hockey fans crammed into the Gibsons and Area Community Centre last Saturday night for an entertaining evening and to support a great cause.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association played host to the Vancouver Canucks Alumni with the Canucks beating the association team of past and present coaches 6-2.
The contest was an entertaining affair from start to finish with the association coaches holding their own against the former pros.
The Alumni led 2-1 after the opening period on goals by Jeff Bandura and Dusty Imoo with Jamie Killackey scoring for the home side. The coaches' squad, coached by Jim Gray and Ray Graham, had numerous other chances in the first including a set break out from the bench as captain Kelly Cousins was sent in all alone on a breakaway only to see Alumni goalie Terry Bingley made a miraculous, behind the back diving save.
In the second, the Alumni padded its lead on goals by David Bruce and Greg Neeld for a 4-1 advantage, but the coaches struck back on a goal by Darren Kohuch at the 10:40 mark.
Four minutes later, a bad clearing attempt resulted in a Chad Brownlee goal for a 5-2 Alumni advantage after two.
The second period intermission was highlighted by a tyke mini game between the Canucks and Leafs and a figure skating demonstration from 11-year-old Beres Clements from the Sunshine Coast Skate Club who performed his pre-juvenile competitive program to great applause from the crowd.
Midway through the third period, Alumni player Jackson Davies, a Coaster at heart as Constable Constable from The Beachcombers, had a little fun with the officials, offering one of the linesman a $20, $50 and $100 bill to move the face-off from the Alumni end to the coaches' end.
The Alumni then lined up in a rugby line trying to catch the coaches off guard, but goalie Munden Froude was up to the task.
Minutes later, the Alumni scored the final goal of the game from Imoo.
After the game, Davies said he was thrilled to be back on the Sunshine Coast.
"Any chance I get to take that ferry trip, it feels like I'm coming home," Davies said. "I had all the guys on the bus stop in front of Molly's Reach to take a picture, so to me this is a home game. No matter where I go here, there is always a memory, whether that it's a filming memory or just a memory being here."
Hockey HEROES executive director Norm Flynn skated with the coaches' squad. He said he was honoured to take part.
"This is all for the kids, and the kids are having a great time," Flynn said. "You know what is impressive is that the Alumni are really great with the kids. They are signing autographs, shaking hands - it's really great to see. It goes to show you how far sports goes. Some of these guys on the Alumni are in their 60s and they still have it. They might not be moving that fast, but their passes are precise and you can see the camaraderie."
Dave Babych, a stalwart on the Canucks' defence in the 1994 Stanley Cup run, co-coached the Alumni with former Canucks captain Chris Oddleifson.
Babych, who is in his fourth year working in player development with the Canucks, said the hospitality from the Sunshine Coast was outstanding.
"We're more than happy to be here and to help out minor hockey. Wherever we go, the communities always make it a great time for us, and this was no different," he said.
Oddleifson also remarked at the great reception the Alumni squad received.
"The Canucks are a good vehicle for fundraising. Our guys have done this going back to the 1970s. Our guys continue to give up their weekends for local charities, and it's our pleasure to do that," he said. "The further away we go from Vancouver, the thicker the red carpet is, and we appreciate your hospitality and the competitive game."
Brenda Rowe, who chaired the event, and association president Sean Gray said they were both thrilled with the event.
"We wanted this as a fundraiser, but more than that, a real community event, which it truly was," Rowe said.
"Brenda and her team were fabulous. I was very proud to be a part of this," Gray added. "Obviously there is a fundraising aspect, but it really gives us a chance to showcase the association and all the volunteers who put a lot of hours into hockey in this community. It's rare to see the whole community come out to watch a game like this at the rink, so it was just a great night."
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