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Former NHLers take to the ice to fight homelessness in Barrie

'It means a lot to me, personally, simply because this is the community I live in and grew up in,' says Mike Gartner

A dozen former NHL stars hit the ice in Barrie on Friday to help raise money for the Busby Centre and Redwood Park Communities.

The annual Hockey for the Homeless event saw 10 teams and 150 players raise more than $145,000, which was near their goal.

The tourney took place at the Peggy Hill Team Community Centre on Mapleton Avenue in the city’s south end.

The effort was led by former NHLer and Hockey Hall of Fame member Mike Gartner, who hails from Barrie.

He was joined by 11 other former NHL pros, including Adam Graves, Gary Roberts, Greg Johnston, Mike Krushelnyski, Kris King, Matt Beleskey, and more.

“It means a lot to me, personally, simply because this is the community I live in and grew up in,” Gartner told BarrieToday.

“It’s an important event for our community because it raises a lot of money for both the Busby Centre and Redwood Park Communities. I think we’re probably going to end up this year tipping over a million dollars over the last eight or nine years, raising funds.”

The Barrie event is one of 17 tournaments across the country, which, in total, have raised more than $24 million since the fundraiser began in 1996.

“It’s a great event. I’ve been a part of it for a few years, and the work they have been able to do in the community is great,” said Beleskey, a former player with Anaheim, Boston, and the New York Rangers.

Graves, a longtime NHLer, and Stanley Cup winner, takes part in the event almost every year and values its effort in raising money for the charities.

“We’re playing hockey. That’s the gift of the game. Hockey is not that important, but it’s what you can do with the game,” he told BarrieToday after coming off the ice.

“If you can get your community leaders, your business leaders and all these great people that come out and raise money for such a great cause, it’s pretty special.

“We’re all kids on the ice. There’s not a player who doesn’t have a smile on their face and isn’t enjoying what they’re doing.”

Ryan O’Donnell, a Barrie resident and player taking part in the event, couldn’t be happier to be involved.

“I’m playing with Adam Graves, and he’s a super-nice guy, really engaged and into it,” he said. “We lost our first game, but it’s fun. It’s an all-around good time.”

“The competition is usually pretty good. We try to spread out a pro on every team,” said Gartner.

“The Hockey Helps the Homeless people do these events across the country, and they say that the Barrie event is probably the most competitive of all the ones they do, so the hockey is actually really good.”

Patrick Brown, a former Barrie city council member and current mayor of Brampton, took part in the event as he usually does.

“It’s been over a decade now,” he said. “I love hockey, and got involved in it, and I’m helping set up the same version of this event in Brampton, and it happens in a few weeks.”

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About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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