Unless you have been living under a rock here in Vancouver it was next to impossible not to know about the "Bieksa's Buddies" Charity hockey game out at UBC's Doug Mitchell Thunderbirds Sports Centre on October 17th. I myself have wondered how local charities the Canucks support and charities other teams in the NHL help support during the hockey season will feel the effects of the lockout. Enter generous hockey players willing to lend a hand. I have heard all over North America players have been trying to help out and one of the best stories I believe comes right out of here in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Kevin Bieksa was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2001 draft, 5th round, 151st overall. A defenceman who in the last 2 years has been paired up with Dan Hamhuis and who has never been shy about showing his emotion on or off the ice. Not only can he shut down a lot of the forwards who are trying to get a shot in on his goalie whether it be Loungo or Schneider. Bieksa scores goals, assists goals, drops the gloves to defend his team, and plays 25 minutes a game or more! At practice Bieksa shows a great work ethic. He is always improving his game and now at the age of 31 seems to be taking on a more veteran roll helping to show the younger defencemen on his team the ropes. I did see him drop his gloves with Dale Weise at practice last year to help Weise improve his fighting prowess. Throwing a few punches with Weise while Max Lapierre looked on.
It wasn't a big surprise that after spending 7 years playing for the Canucks and his entire career within the Canuck organization that Bieksa wanted to find a way to give back during the lockout. It was just the scale of what the event grew into that blew everyone's mind. Kevin managed to pull off one of the best charity events I had ever been too. Locked out Vancouver Canucks plus a few surprise Buddies took on the UBC Men's Hockey team. Tickets sold for $20 each, 5,000 tickets total and every penny of that money went to support 3 charities including the Canuck Place Children's Hospice, the Canucks Autism Network and the Canucks Family Education Centre. Tickets sold out for the event in less then 90 minutes which meant that $100,000 was raised for the charities. Not a bad start. At the game there was also a 50/50 draw and raffles but the biggest donation aside from the money raised by Canuck fans buying tickets would have been Michael Buble's personal donation. Michael Buble can not only belt out old fashion tunes he is also a big big hockey fan! Raised in Burnaby B.C., Buble's #1 team is the Vancouver Canucks. Buble did have a roster spot to skate with his Buddies but opted out and instead took a coaching position along side Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, Alex Elder and Willie Mitchell. He assumed his bench job after announcing that he was so inspired and impressed with what was happening in the arena he decided to match the $100,000 raised by fans and donated $100, 000 out of his own pocket!
The arena got going right at 7:00pm. First up the introduction of the UBC Men's Team. Next came the introduction for Bieksa's Buddies. Next came Buble's donation and finally a surprise 10 minute warm up. I have to say when I go watch a NHL games or a AHL game I love the warm up! It was really a lot of fun to see this warm up. The arena was full, music was on and players were skating. Then puck drop. It was an entertaining 3 periods to say the least. It was a tie game at 3's after the first period. The second period was a runaway period for the Thunderbirds! They scored 4 goals while the Buddies scored none. It ended 7-3. Then along came the 3rd period. I don't know what it was but Bieksa's Buddies mounted one of the greatest come backs of all time and won the game 8-7! Then for the fans a surprise shootout, with 10 players from every team taking part. UBC players got just as many cheers as the Buddies did. For me as a Vancouver fan it was fun to see Chris Higgins, Aaron Volpatti and a few other Canucks go to the shootout because they don't seem to ever get a chance during games. After the shootout the Buddies literally gave the jerseys off there backs to some very lucky young children. One by one the children got to announce who's jersey they were getting and one by one the players skated over, took off their jersey, got down on one knee, signed the jersey, had a conservation and posed for pictures. You could tell the players were having just as much fun as the children. Even Kesler, Garrison, Edler and Mitchell gave away jerseys. It made for one of the best nights. Everyone left happy, charities benefited big time! and all in all it was,simply put, a TON OF FUN!
Again I got there early enough for warm up. It was great to see Zack Kassian, Andrew Ebbett and Chris Tanev all skating. These 3 all played with the Canucks last season and were sent to the AHL to start this season, but hopefully all will be returning to the Canuck lineup once the season gets underway. Another fan favourite is Eddie Lack. The swedish netminder is not only super cute, but very talented as well.
It was the second time these teams were meeting up in two nights. The first game ended in a 3-2 shootout win with Zack Kassian scoring the winning goal. The 2nd night didn't play out quite the same. The Wolves scored first. The Heat followed with a goal and in the 3rd period the Heat took over and scored 3 goals to end the game 4-1. There was a total of 3 fights during the game! Zack Kassian chucked knuckles with Zach McKelvie in the 1st period. To me it looked like Kassian didn't want to engage in the fight because he knew he would win but McKelvie must have said something to him because Kassian had McKelvie's jersey in his hand, threw 3 punches and McKevlie was on the ice. Both players skated off the ice to serve their 5 minute major penalties. Two more fights in the 2nd period and it was safe to say it was an intense game.
It was also a great game to watch. Having only seriously watched hockey for 4 years now I can still find it very fast at times. The NHL players are so skilled they fly up and down the ice passing the puck faster then I can keep up with sometimes but the AHL games move just a hair slower. The game had a different tone then NHL games. I will happily go back to see the Heat again. I highly recommend AHL games to anyone wanting to watch great hockey and for a fraction of the price of an NHL ticket but still get to see incredibly skilled, hard working hockey players. Click on this link and you can find out what teams play around you! Keep in mind the team closest to you might not be the team affiliated with the closest NHL team to you. The Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate team plays in Toronto and the Buffalo Sabres team isn't far away in Rochester, New York but the Heat play in Abbotsford while their NHL team is the Calgary Flames and the Wolves play in Chicago while they are the affiliate to the Vancouver Canucks. http://theahl.com/stats/schedule.php?view=season Enjoy X
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