Have you ever wanted the chance to play alongside some of National Hockey League’s biggest legends to hit the ice? What if you could have that chance and raise money for a great cause?
Easter Seals, a charitable organization that assists children and adults with disabilities and special needs has teamed up with the NHL for five years now to make this very dream come true.
One of their most popular fundraisers are the celebrity hockey classic series that occur in six cities across Ontario.
Paul Coffey lends his name to his own series for Easter Seals in Vaughan, Ont. Coffey is ranked as the second best defencemen of all time and played for teams such as Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penquins and the Boston Bruins.
“They asked me four years ago to chair this event,” said Coffey. “I say every year and it’s true, I said sure I’ll do it for a year and now it’s our fourth year.”
Coffey kicked off the tournament with the annual Captain’s Breakfast in early October. This year J.D. Smith & Sons, a competing team in the November tournament, hosted the breakfast at its Vaughan warehouse.
Captains from each of the competing teams gathered to pick up their tournament jersey and have the chance to meet Coffey himself.
A select few J.D. Smith employees were also invited to the breakfast.
Terry O’Brien, a truck driver and a self-proclaimed hockey super fan, was one of those lucky employees.
“Paul Coffey is huge,” said the 49-year-old driver. “I was nervous to just be in his presence.”
In these series tournaments, each team raises a minimum of $300 per player to qualify to play. Each team gets to draft a confirmed NHL player for their team. Past players have included Wendal Clarke, Eric Lindros, and Rick Natress.
Last year, the Paul Coffey series raised around two hundred thousand dollars.
Myke said the goal this year will be well above that.
“Everybody has a great time and a lot of fun,” she said. “And a lot of dollars are raised.”
All tournament proceeds go towards Easter Seals. The charity provides financial assistance to help purchase essential mobility equipment such as wheelchairs, ramps and lifts. Easter Seals also owns and operates a summer camp for children with disabilities.
Easter Seals holds many special fundraisers in an effort to raise money for their very understaffed charity.
“We are only 47 full-time staff all across Ontario, and we are less than 3 per cent administration management fee,” said Charlene Myke, development manager. “That includes our CEO, our services, our camps, our IT and our communications.”
She says it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for hockey fans while supporting a great cause.
“Together we are helping kids be kids,” said Myke.
To find out more about the Easter Seals’ hockey classic series, go to their website EasterSeals.org.