The hype of the tenth annual Hockey Night In Simcoe County lived up to expectations on and off the ice.
The Barrie Molson Centre was packed last night as fans of the game of hockey, those wanting to catch a glimpse of the NHL’s new poster boy Connor McDavid and everyone dedicated to raising money for local charities filled the seats. Organizer Stew Garner said that before the game started they were 200 tickets short of a sell-out but that was lower by puck drop.
“Let’s face it, there are a ton of people here to see McDavid but we always do well and are very appreciative of the community for coming out year after year,” said Garner. “We’ll likely have a wonderful number to announce for what we’ve raised tonight and no matter who’s here to play, that’s what its about.”
Indeed, the folks at HNISC did have a substantial number as they raised a record for the event in $252,000, which was added to the ten-year tally and eclipsed the $2 million mark. Money raised goes to assisting Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH), Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH), and the Barrie Colts Foundation. Patrick Brown founded the event ten years ago and not only helps with the promoting side but gets onto the ice to play. The MPP was extremely happy with the announcement of what was raised and was very happy to get and play with all the players who participated.
“Its very special to pass that two million mark for our local hospitals and good to have the players that come,” said Brown. “The McDavids, the Mark Scheifeles of the NHL world being here, taking time out of their busy summer schedules says a lot about them and a lot about what the event means to everyone who passes through this city. The other thing about this event that makes it such a draw to players is most people say this isn’t your typical charity game in that its fast and the competitiveness kicks in while we’re out there and the players start wanting to win; but of course, still all in fun and we love it.”
It was one of the more competitive games thus far with the final being 12-9 with Team Mike Gartner defeating Team Dale Hawerchuk. While the NHL’s reigning MVP and scoring champion Connor McDavid was a human highlight reel for those in attendance, it was a familiar face to Barrie Colts fans who was also showing why the Detroit Red Wings made a good draft choice. Former Colt Andreas Athanasiou got a huge applause from the local OHL team’s faithful and was himself more than happy to be playing in his second home.
“I always loved playing here and seeing all the familiar faces was great tonight,” said Athanasiou. “Hockey Night In Simcoe County was here before me and when I joined the team we were all happy to help out; when I left for the NHL I knew I would come back every chance I got. Its great to give back and being back here with all the fans is just an awesome feeling.”
Former Colts like Tanner Pearson and Kevin Labanc shared the ice with not only Barrie’s newest number one pick in Ryan Suzuki, but former and current NHL stars Mike Gartner, Gary Leeman, Ric Jackman, Daniel Tkaczuk and Greg Johnston. Also on-hand but unable to play due to recent surgery was Barrie’s favourite hockey son Shayne Corson. The former Toronto Maple Leaf enjoys representing his city at events such as HNISC and knows that the people of his hometown make this what it is year after year.
“Other towns have games like this for sure, but I’m a bit bias in that I feel ours is special,” said Corson. “The people of Barrie make events like this what they are because of their continued support and the fact that they want to give back to our local charities and hospitals. I wish I could be out there playing but being here is just as important to me.”
Another addition to the event was 12-year-old Zach Hofer who, as a part of Zach Makes Tracks will be running from Barrie to Ottawa starting Sunday to raise funds for youth mental health awareness. Zach was at centre ice to drop the puck with Canada’s favourite hockey dad Walter Gretzky.
Preparations for the next HNISC are already underway and you can follow any progress and news at the website and on Twitter at @HockeyNightSC