June is a major month for hockey. The Stanley Cup, the hardest trophy to
win in sports, is handed out. NHL awards are bestowed upon the best of the
best. The future becomes the present as prospects find homes at the NHL
There’s another major event in June, however, and this one has London,
Ont., buzzing with the possibility of impacting the future of hockey in
Canada for years to come.
The 15th annual Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf is set for June
18-19 in London; this year’s gala dinner will celebrate Canada’s rich
hockey history, including the 2018 Order of Hockey in Canada honourees,
Mike Babcock, Danielle Goyette and Ryan Smyth, and the gold medal-winning
National Junior Team from the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Jeff Macoun is leading the charge as chair of the host committee. The
executive vice-president with Great-West Life in London helped Tourism
London back an unsuccessful bid for the World Juniors last year. Knowing
what hockey means to the community and foreseeing the benefits of hosting
the Foundation gala, Macoun and company submitted a proposal outlining how
they could successfully do just that.
And here we are at the Hockey Canada Foundation’s largest fundraiser of the
Macoun said it’s fitting the event will be held at the London Hunt &
Country Club and Red Tail Golf Course, because when you think of hockey in
Canada, you think of London.
“There aren’t many places in Canada, or perhaps even in the world, where
hockey means as much as it does to London,” said Macoun, whose brother
Jamie is a Team Canada alumnus. “Hockey is really vibrant throughout the
community here; we have great minor hockey systems, a vibrant girls hockey
program we’re proud of, and one of the largest sledge hockey federations in
the world. That’s without even mentioning the Knights, the pride they bring
the city and the success we’ve had producing NHLers over the years.”
The London Knights are a staple in London. The OHL franchise has been a
fabric of the community since it was established in 1965 as the Nationals.
The four-time Ontario Hockey League champion and two-time Memorial Cup
champion Knights rock green, gold and black like no one else and boast
sellout crowds of 9,100 with regularity.
The Knights have produced five first-overall selections in the NHL Entry
Draft, the most of any team in the world, and London has produced a
whopping 142 players drafted into the NHL as of 2017.
Darryl Sittler was the first, Robert Thomas the most recent and in between
the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Rick Nash, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Bo
Horvat and Matthew Tkachuk played for the Knights. Corey Perry was also a
standout for the Knights and it’s with pride he returns to London as an
honorary chair of the HCF Gala & Golf, alongside Mark Hunter, who spent
14 seasons in London as GM of the Knights and is still a co-owner.
Perry is one of 10 Canadians in the exclusive IIHF Triple Gold Club, having
won Olympic gold, IIHF World Championship gold and the Stanley Cup. His
time in London was a precursor to the success that followed. During his
four year OHL career, Perry led the Knights to their first OHL championship
and Memorial Cup title in 2005.
In 2011, the Knights retired Perry’s No. 94 and during his emotional speech
to the fans, he said London changed his life.
“It’s exciting to see my name up there,” said Perry, looking at the
rafters, fighting back tears. “I still remember coming to my first training
camp, my parents dropped me off … it changed my whole life coming to
London, having all you fans out here to support us.”
Macoun and the host committee for the Gala & Golf are hoping London
will continue to change lives in the future. With half of all the net
proceeds raised from the event staying in London, that could soon be a
The 2016 Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf left a $269,000 legacy in
Nova Scotia, while the 2017 event held in Saskatoon produced a $333,000
legacy plan that targets financial assistance to Saskatoon families, the
construction of Merlis Belsher Place at University of Saskatchewan, and
visits to 10 northern Saskatchewan communities for Initiation jamborees to
introduce five- and six-year-old children to hockey.
“That money will go to girls and boys who probably don’t have a chance to
play the game, who don’t economically have the ability to play the game,
don’t have the ability to buy the equipment,” said Macoun. “With half the
money staying local, we’ll be able to form a legacy program and help the
community in London over a number of years. That’s a major goal.
“Another goal is to continue to develop the sledge hockey in the area as
well. We want to continue to keep all walks of life involved in minor
hockey and keep hockey thriving in London. We want London to be seen as a
hockey mecca, one open to future opportunities like the IIHF World Junior
Championship and events like that.”