You walk into the dressing room, trying not to step onto the giant logo adorning the carpet, as you spot your name and make your way over to your equipment stall. You get suited up, lace up your skates, and carefully take your jersey off its hanger.
You pull it over your head, tugging at it here and there to adjust it over your shoulder and elbow pads, gingerly moving your hand over the red, white and black crest on your chest. You know this is it. It’s your moment.
Many dream about it, but few actually get the chance to wear a Team Canada jersey and play alongside the most skilled athletes in the sport from around the world.
While nothing compares to making the cut to represent your country on the ice, some lucky hockey fans from the Calgary area are getting about as close as you can get to the real deal, by taking part in the Team Canada Alumni Association’s fantasy games, which give regular Joes (and Janes) the chance to face off against some of their greatest hockey heroes.
“The fantasy experience really does start with the dressing room,” Chris Bright, executive director of the Hockey Canada Foundation, said of the fundraising idea that started with a tournament four years ago at Father David Bauer Olympic Arena, and has since expanded to annual match-ups against local companies at Hockey Canada’s new WinSport Canada home. “The music in the dressing room, the carpet on the floor, and just seeing the Hockey Canada emblem on their jerseys as they’re hung up – it’s something that most would never experience.”
With Hockey Canada’s impressive new office and training facilities, the dream can become even more of a reality, from stepping onto the same ice where the country’s top up-and-coming players try out for Canada’s National Junior Team, to getting pumped up by watching a motivational video in the brand new theatre before the big game.
“It’s something very similar to what a World Junior player would receive, without all of the pressures,” Bright said.
Over the last two years, accounting firm KPMG and oil and gas service company RigSat Communications have faced off against alumni such as Danielle Goyette (St. Nazaire, Que.), Sheldon Kennedy (Elkhorn, Man.), Morris Lukowich (Speers, Sask.), Lanny McDonald (Hanna, Alta.) and Colleen Sostorics (Kennedy, Sask.), among many others. Most recently, KPMG took to the ice March 12 and on April 5, RigSat experienced its first fantasty game against Team Canada alumni.
Bright said the chance to get back in the jersey is also special for alumni, including him. “There is a bond that everyone shares.”
Whether it’s through a charity auction or an agreement with a company such as KPMG, which offers the fantasy game experience to clients, “the dollars are coming back to the Hockey Canada Foundation.”
“It goes into our endowment fund, which on a yearly basis does support Hockey Canada programming, from the grassroots programs like Dream Come True, right up to the Olympic teams and development of Olympic players, as well as coaches and officiating,” Bright said. “What’s important is that (alumni) are giving their time for this cause, and supporting what the foundation believes in, and Hockey Canada’s goals.”
The Hockey Canada Foundation hopes to soon expand fantasy games beyond Calgary, by getting alumni back on the ice in other major city centres.
“Look for this to come to the east,” Bright said. “We love when we get the opportunity to do something alumni related in Montreal or Toronto or Vancouver, or wherever it is… we want to have national scope and presence.”
For more information on the Team Canada Alumni Association’s fantasy games, please contact Bright at firstname.lastname@example.org.