Despite the NHL lockout still showing no signs of ending, hockey fans in Winnipeg saw plenty of current and former NHL stars this past week. There were players that carved out great NHL careers despite never being drafted, players with Stanley Cup rings, Hockey Hall of Fame rings, Memorial Cup rings, as well as World Junior and Olympic champions.
It started with the Mike Keane Classic, a great two day event that raised over $350,000 for the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation and Continuity Care. Companies raise money, draft a former NHL player to join their team and it's game on. The Richardson Pioneers raised the most, over $80,000 and as a result got to pick first, selecting Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel.
Those partaking were Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, Al Secord, Brian Bellows, Brian Skrudland, Dave Ellett, Kris King, Eric Lindros, Wendel Clark, Kelly Chase, Curtis Joseph, Billy Smith (neither played goal), Lanny McDonald, Bryan Trottier (although a back injury limited his playing time), Shane Hnidy (late recruit with the injury to Trottier, had to forgo his TSN 1290 duties and take to the ice), Dean Kennedy, Thomas Steen and of course Mike Keane. The four that were never drafted by an NHL team were Joseph, Keane, Skrudland and Chase.
A number of the players were former Jets, in fact, Keane and Steen still live in Winnipeg. Yes there were plenty of sore muscles, but a good time was had by all, and most important, plenty of support for the event and plenty of dollars were raised.
It was a great couple of "on location" broadcast days for TSN 1290. Plenty of great stories from all the former NHLers that participated.
Saturday was another big day for TSN 1290 as the Andrew Ladd/Mark Stuart charity game was broadcast live. Over $80,000 was raised for the Goals for Dreams Charity. NHLers joined members of the Winnipeg Police Hockey team for a fun afternoon at Max Bell Arena. Former NHL referee Ron Hoggarth did a terrific job, with microphone in hand. And again thank you to Boston Pizza and all the other sponsors for their participation. A good time had by all.
On hand were NHL players James Reimer, Bryan Little, Jim Slater, Jonathan Toews, Troy Brouwer, Ryan Garbutt, Chris Mason, Shea Weber, Mike Richards, Gregory Campbell, Olli Jokinen, Colin Wilson, Zach Bogosian (because of his injury coached Team Stuart – tough day for him and his team as they lost 13-8, or was it 14-8. The big winner was the Goals for Dreams Charity), Tanner Glass, Jim O'Brien, Ryan Reaves, along with a couple former NHLers Thomas Steen and Shane Hnidy. After being drafted by Team Ladd, Shane again shunned his radio duties, electing to play. And played very well we might add. Slap shots were now allowed but Toews ripped a couple, and that gave Weber the green light to unload one of his bombs. Much to the delight of the sold out crowd.
So Winnipeg fans certainly had hockey to watch, but not the hockey they want to watch. On that front, yes, meetings are set to resume on Monday, but to expect a quick resolution would be wishful thinking.
Plenty has been said and written about where the matter stands, what the issues are, and what we should expect going forward. So we won't get into that right now. But there are a couple of topics to touch on. A lot of media are taking sides and that is fine. Be pro owner, or pro player, but be PROFESSIONAL. When this is all over and the sides agree to a new CBA, here is a suggestion. The owners (not Gary Bettman or Bill Daly) and the players (not the Fehr brothers) should form a small committee to debrief the entire proceedings. Try and determine why talks did not start earlier, which side stalled the process, etc.
Perhaps the findings would suggest that someone be held accountable, but more to use those findings to try and prevent this from happening again. This may seem trivial now, but when the financial damage to the game because of this stoppage is calculated, a few dollars on debriefing may be a good idea.
So again, thanks to everyone for making last week an exciting one. Plenty of familiar faces, plenty of old stories, and plenty of talk about how we all miss the NHL game.