It was supposed to be a glitzy, glamorous affair to celebrate this year’s world championship-winning National Sledge Team, National Men’s Under-18 Team and National Women’s Under-18 Team.
But sometimes all the sparkle and shine is put into perspective, and the devastating floods that washed through southern Alberta in late June, mere days before the 2013 Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic was supposed to take place at Hockey Canada’s home in Calgary, was certainly one of those times.
Much to the dismay of the Hockey Canada Foundation and its many special guests, the sold-out gala and golf tournament, originally scheduled for Monday, June 24 and Tuesday, June 25, have been postponed until a later date due to the natural disaster that swept through the area and wreaked havoc on urban and rural communities alike.
Much to good fortune, Hockey Canada’s new facilities at Canada Olympic Park were untouched directly by the flood, unlike thousands of less fortunate folks across the city and the province, including Celebrity Classic honorary co-chair Sheldon Kennedy, whose townhouse in the inner-city community of Erlton and farm near the Highwood River were both heavily impacted, and the Calgary Flames community, which saw the Saddledome filled with muddy waters up to the eighth row of the lower bowl and lost irreplaceable memorabilia.
And like Albertans and Calgarians, who are selflessly coming together and proudly vow to rise again, the Hockey Canada Foundation will ensure Canada’s world champions are fully recognized as deserved, while also celebrating the game at the grassroots level by directing important funds raised at events such as the Celebrity Classic gala and golf tournament to getting – and keeping – more kids on the ice. And, of course, to inspire world championship-worthy dreams in children of all ages and backgrounds.
That is, after all, where the passion for Canada’s game stems from. It’s also why plans for this year’s event included skillfully transforming Hockey Canada’s home arena at the Markin MacPhail Centre, where the country’s best practice and train, into an impressive venue for hosting the best players in the world, celebrities such as event host Gord Miller, honorary chairs Kennedy and Lanny McDonald, and coaching panel members Mike Babcock and Dave King – along with some of the biggest names in business and sports.
But celebrities and championship rings aside, auctions and raffles supported by the more than 840 special guests who planned on attending the Monday evening gala, and the 310 golfers who were set to enthusiastically tee off at Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club in Priddis, Alta., were expected to raise over $500,000 in support of minor hockey programs across the country. More than $250,000 of those funds would have helped KidSport Calgary further its initiatives of making sports such as hockey more accessible by assisting with equipment and registration costs for underprivileged children, leaving a local legacy for this year’s Celebrity Classic host city, while the other half would have gone toward the foundation’s funding cornerstones of accessibility, diversity, health and wellness. All of the money raised would have helped to ensure the future of our sport, and the positive values it offers participants.
“We are extremely disappointed to have to postpone our gala and golf tournament at the last minute, but in the midst of such an incredible natural disaster, it was simply the only option,” Hockey Canada Foundation executive director Chris Bright said. “We are currently looking at alternative plans to celebrate our three world championship-winning national teams, while raising much-needed funds for minor hockey programs, and we’re very thankful for the understanding of all of our athletes and partners.”
“It has been an extremely difficult time for our friends and family across Alberta, and while it’s a shame our foundation has had to postpone such an important event, our priorities have been to ensure the safety of our fellow community members,” Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson said. “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by flooding, both in the hockey world and beyond, and although it will be a long road to rebuild and recover, we also know that our city and province are proud, resilient and strong.”
While the annual Celebrity Classic is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser, it’s certainly not the only one. The Hockey Canada Foundation is back on the green again Monday, Aug. 12, when Canada’s National Women’s Team will host Going Fore Gold at Redtail Golf Course in London, Ont., while the fourth annual Team Canada Alumni Association Charity Golf Tournament is set for Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Lakeside Greens Golf and Country Club in Chestermere, Alta.
Calgary last hosted the Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic in 2008. The 2014 event will take place in Vancouver, B.C.