Former NHL stars face-off vs. military heroes in fundraising showdown
In a battle of Flames orange and desert camo, heroes from two walks of life faced off during one of Canada's favourite pastimes on Jan.26, 2012, giving those in attendance a show well worth the $30 cost of admission.
Staged scraps, spirited arguments with refs and comical banter between teams of ex-NHL players and active service personnel kept a small, yet boisterous crowd entertained for two 30-minute periods of some not-so-fast paced hockey.
Last week's game was the debut of the Heroes Hockey Challenge, which organizers say they hope to make an annual, Canada-wide event from this year forward.
Heroes Hockey Challenge was born out of a vision belonging to Glenn Cumyn, who grew up as the son of service personnel who, combined, have given 65 years of service to the Canadian military.
Cumyn currently has family members as well as a number of friends in active service.
The event aims to shine the spotlight on some of our nation's greatest military service men and women, and aims to benefit a number of Canada's unsung heroes.
Master Warrant Officer Jim Butters, who donned the camo jersey along with his military comrades, also had a brief career in the NHL from '77-'78 when he played for Minnesota. Butters also organizes the military side of the event.
"We put our heads together and came up with the idea of the Heroes HockeyChallenge, where we would play NHL alumni teams across the country," Butters says. "The cause we're supporting, of course, is the family of the fallen, the wounded warriors themselves and their families.
"These are guys who went out and lost their limbs, lost their lives for our country, it only makes sense that we go out and raise money to support the cause."
Though the speed might not have been what it once was back in the glory days for the former NHL stars, it was obvious that they still played with the same heart and ambition of an earlier time.
James Macoun, Calgary Flames alumnus, says this wasn't his first time facing off against the military players.
"I've been fortunate enough to go overseas twice now," he says. "A bunch of different athletes and musicians go over, and when I had the chance to go over, it was something I jumped at."
Macoun adds: "When you go over there, you realize how fortunate you are to be in Canada. The young men and women that are putting their lives at risk for us, it makes a difference."
In attendance were civilians, as well as active members of the military. Second Lt. Tauquer Hussain brought his wife and two sons, ages 5 and 7 — both boys being huge fans of hockey.
Hussain says he finds it comforting to know his family will be looked after and supported when he is on tour.
As a parent of young children, he thinks the military sets a good example for his children.
"As they get older they will try to understand what these guys do for us, and the sacrifices that we make and we should appreciate that," Hussain says.
- By TARYN HAJNRYCH