NHLPA Charity Game Scores Big with Cornwall Fans
Cornwall Ontario - A crowd of 4,000-plus filled the Cornwall Civic Complex Monday night for the First Assist Charity Classic, a fundraiser featuring over a dozen NHL players including Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators and Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges of the Montreal Canadiens. Hometown boy Jesse Winchester also suited up for the game.
“It’s always a treat to see world-class athletes perform in Cornwall,” said Mayor Bob Kilger, himself a former NHL referee. “The event resulted in major media exposure for Cornwall and for the charities.”
In the end, Alfredsson’s Team White defeated Winchester’s Team Black 13-9, but there was a bigger winner on the night. The game served as a benefit for First Assist, a charity that funds programs to benefit First Nations youth in fly-in communities, as well as the Cornwall Chapter of the Max Keeping Foundation.
“It was an unbelievable success. The fans had a great time and the players had a fantastic time,” said former NHLer John Chabot, the organizer of the game.
Chabot said he was thrilled with the turnout for the game, and he was also appreciative of the support that he received from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department in making the game a reality.
“We were really excited when we were first approached about hosting this game, and we wanted to ensure it was a success,” said Janice Robinson, Facilities Rental Coordinator for the City. “It was rewarding to see residents enjoying this unique hockey experience right in their own backyard.”
The fans got a taste of hockey at its finest as the pros put their skill and speed on full display. Following the game, the NHLers took time to sign autographs for local fans who were eager to meet some of their hockey idols.
"The NHL players last night did an amazing job, to use your celebrity to make a difference is so impressive," said Nicole McCabe, mother of Jeremy McCabe, who got to drop the puck along with Tia Latour and Kobe Tallman. "I know I have one star struck little boy who is still amazed that he stood next to Alfie, dropped the puck and then shook his hand....a night to remember!"
One of the highlights of the night was when the PeeWee Colts took to the ice during the first intermission for a scrimmage with some of the NHL stars. Rugged Ottawa Senator forward Chris Neil helped break the ice and calm the nerves, and was later paid back when the kids swarmed him along the boards for a little bit of fun roughhousing.
All of the players were happy to be skating competitively again, and many were genuinely happy to be in Cornwall.
“I like Cornwall a lot,” said Daniel Alfredsson.
The Cornwall connection didn't end there. Organizers had local hockey leaders fill in as honourary team coaches and even as a referee. As an added bonus, Cornwall Colts goaltenders Jordan Piccolino and James Edwardson took to the creases for a portion of the third period.
Team Cornwall Chair Gilles Latour also stepped up to make a difference, helping organizers with a number of details on behalf of the Max Keeping Foundation - Cornwall Chapter. The local charity received about 10% of the net proceeds from the night as well as proceeds from the 50/50 draw organized by the South Stormont Selects hockey team.
"It was a good night of hockey for a great cause," said Mr. Latour. "A lot of kids are passionate about hockey, and to be able to see their heroes play in Cornwall is a big deal."
Mr. Chabot is hoping to organize similar charity games in Thunder Bay and the Northwest Territories in the coming weeks.
About Max Keeping Foundation- Cornwall Chapter
The Max Keeping Foundation helps economically disadvantaged children and youth in Cornwall and area to access sports and recreational activities like hockey, soccer, basketball, football, swimming, camps, etc.
About First Assist Charity
First Assist is a sports and education-based program for First Nations kids started by former NHL player and coach John Chabot. First Assist introduces kids from the north to some of the opportunities in Canada’s largest cities.